• 2018 Colorado New Play Summit selections announced

    by John Moore | Nov 29, 2017
    A video look back at the 2017 Colorado New Play Festival in February. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

     

    DCPA's signature celebration has introduced 53 new plays, over half of which have returned as full productions.

    The DCPA Theatre Company's 13th annual Colorado New Play Summit will feature readings of new works by Sigrid Gilmer, David Jacobi, Kemp Powers, and Barbara Seyda alongside world-premiere productions by José Cruz González, Matthew Lopez and Lauren Yee, it was announced this morning. 

    A Summit 800 5The Colorado New Play Summit, which return Feb. 17-25, 2018, is the DCPA’s signature festival dedicated to supporting playwrights and developing new work. Participating playwrights, including many commissioned by the Theatre Company, are given two weeks with professional directors, actors and dramaturgs to workshop new plays. Industry professionals and the public are invited to experience them as non-staged readings.

    (Pictured above and right: 2017 Colorado New Play Summit reading of Donnetta Lavinia Grays' 'Last Night and the Night Before.')

    Since its founding, the Summit has introduced 53 new plays, over half of which returned to the stage as full Theatre Company productions. Recent Summit world premieres include Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will, Tanya Saracho’s FADE, Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride, Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale, Theresa Rebeck’s The Nest, Marcus Gardley’s black odyssey, Karen Zacarias’s Just Like Us, Jeffrey Haddow and Neal Hampton’s Sense and Sensibility The Musical, and Dick Scanlan’s reimagined version of The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

    2018 FEATURED NEW-PLAY READINGS:

    Mama Metallica
    By Sigrid Gilmer
    Sigrid GilmerBudding playwright Sterling Milburn has always been overshadowed by her fabulous mother Louise. Even when she’s holed up in a care facility with Parkinson’s, Louise finds a way to steal the spotlight. But with the overly critical eyes of Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams to fuel her rebellion and the frenetic energy of Metallica to help find her voice, Sterling sets out to write a story that is finally her own. As unfortunate histories mesh with hilarious interludes, Sterling must face the truth: her pain, her joys and her life will forever be shaped by and linked to the woman who raised her. Sigrid Gilmer’s “wonderfully impudent sense of humor” (USA Today) shines in this joyfully irreverent black comedy that entwines issues of identity with pop culture icons for a truly unique (and head-banging) experience.

    About Sigrid Gilmer: makes black comedies that are historically bent, totally perverse, joyfully irreverent and concerned with issues of identity, pop culture and contemporary American society. Sigrid burst onto the national theatre scene with her play Harry and the Thief, an action film/historical/time travel play about a thief who is blackmailed into traveling back in time to deliver a cache of arms to Harriet Tubman. It has since been produced across the country, including runs at the Pavement Group (Chicago), the Know Theatre (Cincinnati), and the Skylight Theatre (LA). Additional select works include Slavey (Clubbed Thumb), Seed: A Weird Act of Faith, It’s All Bueno (Cornerstone Theater Company), Frilly, and White 3: Manifestdestinyland. Sigrid is also on the writing team of the acclaimed Black Women: State of the Union. Sigrid is a winner of the Map Fund Creative Exploration Grant, the James Irving Foundation Fellowship and is a USA Ford Fellow in Theatre. Sigrid has an MFA in Writing for Performance from Cal Arts, where she was mentored by Suzan-Lori Parks. She resides in Los Angeles.

     


    The Couches
    By David Jacobi

    DCPA Theatre Company Commission
    David JacobiEthan Couch has lived in a bubble of pampered privilege for his entire life, so when he’s convicted of killing four people while driving drunk, he and his mother Tonya flee to a resort in Mexico rather than face the consequences. In this self-imposed state of limbo, Ethan pays hotel clerk Daniel $1000 to be his friend and help maintain the facade of his prior life. But as the unlikely pair drink, sing, and stumble through the night, delusions of how the world works melt away as quickly as their cash flow. David Jacobi draws from the infamous 2013 “affluenza” court case to weave a surreal story of recklessness and reflection.

    About David Jacobi
    : His plays have been performed throughout the U.S. and in China, including the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, FringeNYC and Penghao Theatre. His work has been developed at Ojai Playwrights Conference, Portland Center Stage’s JAW Festival, RISK IS THIS, Great Plains Theatre Conference, Kennedy Center MFA Playwright’s Workshop, SLC Playwrights Lab and PlayPenn. He is a winner of the Holland New Voices Award, Kennedy Center Theatre for Young Audiences Award, a Relentless Award semifinalist, and has been nominated for the Weissburger. David was the 2015 Shank Fellow at Pig Iron Theatre Company, and is currently under commission from the Denver Center and South Coast Rep. He received a BFA in Dramatic Writing from Purchase College and an MFA from UC San Diego.



    Christa McAuliffe’s Eyes Were Blue
    By Kemp Powers DCPA Theatre Company Commission
    Kemp PowersEven though they share the same DNA, twins Steven and Bernard have lived drastically different lives. The big reason? One is plagued by racism because of his dark skin while the other passes as white. Steven spent his childhood fitting in with fellow classmates and is now a successful attorney. Though he was an extraordinarily bright student who had his eyes on outer space, Bernard’s future is as dismal as the Challenger Space Shuttle that once inspired him. As he prepares for trial and potential jail time, Bernard must face his childhood bully behind the judge’s bench and confront his brother’s advantages. Following his DCPA audience favorite One Night in Miami…, Kemp Powers’ piercing meditation on race and privilege targets the circumstances that can change a child’s destiny.

    About Kemp Powers:
    His plays include One Night in Miami… (Donmar Warehouse, Denver Center, Baltimore Center Stage, Rogue Machine; 2017 Olivier nominee for Best New Play, three Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle awards, four NAACP Theatre awards, LA Weekly Theater award), Little Black Shadows (South Coast Repertory) and The Two Reds (The Ground Floor at Berkeley Repertory). His work has been developed at Denver Center Theatre Company, South Coast Repertory, Berkeley Repertory Theatre and the Classical Theatre of Harlem. In television and film, he was most recently a writer for “Star Trek: Discovery”(CBS All Access) and is currently adapting his play One Night in Miami… into a feature film. He has toured nationally as a storyteller for the Peabody Award-winning series, "The Moth," and was one of the 50 storytellers selected for publication in their New York Times-bestselling book, The Moth: 50 True Stories (Hyperion Press). Powers is a founding member of The Temblors, a producing playwrights collective based in Los Angeles, where he resides.



    Celia, A Slave
    By Barbara Seyda

    Barbara SeydaIn 1855, 19-year-old African-American slave Celia was convicted of killing her master and hanged. Her story became known as a notorious failure of justice in American history, but to truly understand its significance, look to the people of Calloway County who experienced it all. Using oral histories and official records as her guide, playwright Barbara Seyda investigates the event with a tapestry of interviews with the dead. This stunningly evocative play illuminates the brutal realities of female slave life in the pre-Civil War South as it resurrects a panorama of real people on stage. The piece won the Yale Drama Series playwriting competition in its current form.

    About Barbara Seyda: She is a playwright, editor, designer and theatre artist. She has a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MFA from Mason Gross School of Art, Rutgers University. She has been a freelance editor for the Southwest Center, Rio Nuevo Press and the University of Arizona Press with a focus on native art, culture, history, ethnography and oral traditions of the American Southwest. She taught at Pratt Institute, The New School for Social Research, Rutgers University and University of Arizona's Continuing Education Program. Her publications include Nomads of a Desert City (University of Arizona Press) and Women in Love (Bulfinch, imprint of Little, Brown & Company). Her debut play Celia, A Slave was selected by Nicholas Wright, former Associate Director of London's Royal Court and won the Yale Drama Prize in 2015. The first public staged reading was at Lincoln Center under the direction of Niegel Smith and the script was published by Yale University Press in 2016. Celia opened The Rogue Theatre's 2017 season to rave reviews by PBS and NPR. She will reexamine the structure of Celia at the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit. Her new plays include An Unnatural History and Life in a Jar.


    2018 WORLD PREMIERE PLAYS:

    American Mariachi
    By José Cruz González

    Directed by James Vásquez
    Produced in association with The Old Globe

    A Jose Cruz Gonzalez 160DCPA Theatre Company Commission developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    Lucha and Boli are ready to start their own all-female mariachi band, but they’ll have to fight a male-dominated music genre and pressure from their families to get it done. This humorous, heartwarming story about music’s power to heal and connect includes gorgeous live mariachi music.

    Zoey’s Perfect Wedding
    By Matthew Lopez
    Directed by Mike Donahue

    Matthew LopezDisaster after disaster follow one unfortunate bride down the aisle, from brutally honest boozy speeches to a totally incompetent wedding planner. Watch in awe as this wildly funny fiasco destroys her expectations with the realities of commitment, fidelity and growing up.

    The Great Leap
    By Lauren Yee
    Directed by Eric Ting
    Produced in association with Seattle Repertory Theatre

    Yee, LaurenDCPA Theatre Company Commission developed at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit
    When an American college basketball team travels to Beijing for an exhibition game in 1989, the drama on the court goes deeper than the strain between their countries. Tensions rise right up to the final buzzer as history collides with the action in the stadium.

    The 13th Annual Colorado New Play Summit
    Launch Weekend: Feb. 17-18
    Festival Weekend: Feb. 23-25
    More details: denvercenter.org/summit

    All-inclusive Festival Weekend packages including all four readings, three world premieres, plus meals and special events are on sale now. Launch weekend events will go on sale in January 2018. 

    2017 Colorado New Play Summit

    Full photo gallery from the 2017 Colorado New Play Festival in February. To see more, click on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Bonus video coverage: Meet the 2017 featured playwrights:
    Summit Spotlight video: Lauren Gunderson, The Book of Will
    Summit Spotlight video: José Cruz González, American Mariachi
    Summit Spotlight Video: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Summit Spotlight Video: Mat Smart, Midwinter
  • Chris Coleman promises a DCPA Theatre Company that's robust and resonant

    by John Moore | Nov 14, 2017
    Chris Coleman named A.D.
    Photos from today's announcement of Chris Coleman as just the fourth Artistic Director in the nearly 40-year history of the DCPA Theatre Company. To see more, click on the image above to be taken to our full Flickr gallery. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    The longtime Portland leader champions a range of voices from George Bernard Shaw to Lauren Gunderson, who says: 'Denver is so lucky to get him.'

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    Chris ColemanWhen the Managing Director at Portland Center Stage learned that longtime Artistic Director Chris Coleman was being hired away by the DCPA Theatre Company, she shook her head and said, “Denver, I hope you know you just won the lottery.”

    “Chris Coleman is not only a gifted theater artist, he's one of the best community connectors I've ever worked with,” a resigned Cynthia Fuhrman added from Portland. “That is a rare combination.”

    Coleman was introduced this morning as only the fourth Artistic Director in the nearly 40-year history of the DCPA Theatre Company. For the past 17 years, the Atlanta native has led a company with many of the same sensibilities as his new one. Portland Center Stage offers up to 12 offerings each season ranging from classics to contemporary works to homegrown musicals on two stages while also hosting an annual new-play festival, education programs and an array of community events. All of which sounds a lot like the mission of the DCPA Theatre Company. With one big difference: Twice as many performance spaces, and more financial resources. 

    “There is not another theatre in the country with the same administrative and physical infrastructure inside one organization,” said Coleman, who also will oversee the company’s burgeoning line of Off-Center programming — the kind that takes place in non-traditional performance spaces ranging fro the Stanley Marketplace to the streets of Denver.

    Asked to name one dream offering that might help elucidate his artistic sensibilities, Coleman mulled the possibilities before offering this tantalizing prospect: “One of my fantasies would be to go back to the beginnings of the company and remount The Caucasian Chalk Circle and engage DeVotchKa to write a score for it,” he said. “I just think that would be so cool.”

    Coleman clearly has studied up on his Denver Center history. The Theatre Company launched on New Year’s Eve 1979 with Bertolt Brecht’s modernist masterpiece, starring Tyne Daly. And just last year, Colorado’s own Grammy-nominated gypsy-punk band DeVotchKa not only experimented with Stephen Sondheim’s beloved Sweeney Todd score, but the band members got their necks at every performance.

    Shawn King Devotchke Sweeney Todd. Photo by John MooreColeman lists Brecht as among his favorite playwrights — and it is a wildly eclectic list that includes William Shakespeare, Luis Alfaro, Lynn Nottage, Paula Vogel and the playwright Coleman has directed more than any other: George Bernard Shaw. Under Coleman, 52 of the new plays Center Stage helped in their gestation have been performed at 115 theatres around the country. One he is most proud of is Dan O’Brien’s Body of an American, about how a photograph of an American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu haunted the photographer who took it. (It is currently being presented by Denver’s Curious Theatre).

    Among the many rising playwrights Coleman has nurtured along their paths are Matthew Lopez and Lauren Yee, whose latest plays Zoey’s Perfect Wedding and The Great Leap, respectively, are coming up soon on the Theatre Company’s current season.

    (Pictured above and right: Shawn King of DeVotchka in 'Sweeney Todd' in 2016. Photo by John Moore.)

    In announcing the appointment, DCPA President and CEO Janice Sinden cited Coleman’s “commitment to artistic excellence, community engagement, new-play development, crowd-pleasing musicals and discovery of new voices” — all of which she said will resonate throughout the region, and will further the DCPA’s efforts to diversify its audience. Coleman said his priorities also include local storytelling, giving voice to underserved communities and building a robust collaboration with the DCPA’s Education division.

    Chris Coleman and husband Rodney Hicks. Photo by John Moore.  “I am super-interested in figuring out how we put the most resonant work on stage we can,” Coleman said. “And by that I don’t necessarily think every play has to be topical to be resonant. I mean work that really lands emotionally for people. So much so that audiences feel compelled to reach out and let us know that we affected them, and that the work has stayed with them.”

    (Pictured at right: New Theatre Company Artistic Director Chris Coleman with his husband, Rodney Hicks, at today's announcement. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    Coleman says he is not only a fan of the Theatre Company's annual Colorado New Play Summit, one of the signature programs launched by his predecessor, Kent Thompson, he sees it as the company’s greatest drawing card, along with the $1.4 million Women’s Voices Fund, which supports plays written and directed by women. “I am eager to connect great artists with the larger conversation Denver is having about its future right now,” he said. “I am interested in telling big stories — both from cultures that haven’t found their way onto our stages yet, and those that are waiting to burst out of the mind of the young playwright down the street.

    “I don't think there is any reason we shouldn't be one of the top institutions for producing new work in the country.”

    ‘He sure can pick em’

    At Portland Center Stage’s 2002 equivalent of the Colorado New Play Summit, Coleman had a hunch about a submission from a budding 18-year-old playwright. So he took the extraordinary step of giving the young woman a featured slot in the festival alongside, among others, a comparatively grizzled 25-year-old named Itamar Moses. His latest play, The Band’s Visit, opened on Broadway just this past Thursday.

    Chris Coleman quote 8 LAUREN GUNDERSONThe teenager’s play was called Parts They Call Deep, about three Southern women in a Winnebago. Now for the kicker: The playwright was Lauren Gunderson, who, fast-forward 14 years, wrote the Denver Center’s red-hot world-premiere The Book of Will and is now the most-produced playwright in America for the second year running. “It has been amazing to watch her rise,” Coleman said. 

    “Yeah, he sure can pick ’em,” Gunderson said with a laugh.

    Gunderson calls Coleman a mentor who helped her to visualize a possible life in the theatre for herself – when she was 12. Her hometown is also Atlanta, where in 1988 Coleman founded Actor’s Express, dubbed Atlanta's "gutsiest and most vital theatre."

    In those tender years, Gunderson fancied herself an actor, and she was cast as the kid in two mainstage productions there — The Philadelphia Story and Approaching Zanzibar — and she absorbed everything. “That’s the first time I realized that people actually sit down and write plays,” Gunderson said. “By just watching Chris, I started to see all of these other avenues for a life in the theatre for me.”

    Coleman, whose family's Atlanta roots go back to 1804 ("But we were poor dirt farmers," he says), was a bit of a star of the stage himself in those days. How big of a fan was Gunderson of his work? “My 14th birthday party was taking my girlfriends to see Chris Coleman play Hamlet,” she said. “I loved it, and I will never forget it.”

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    While at Portland, Coleman also produced or directed plays by Sophocles, Molière, Anton Chekhov, Edward Albee, August Wilson, Tennessee Williams, Ntozake Shange, Dael Orlandersmith, David Henry Hwang, John Patrick Shanley, Naomi Wallace, Sam Shepard, Douglas Carter Beane, Martin McDonaugh and Amy Freed — among others.

    “He just has such a knack for championing a remarkably wide variety of voices in the new-play world,” Gunderson said. “I think that’s because he has such a variety of experiences himself as a director, playwright, actor and artistic leader. What makes him a genius is that he knows every aspect of the creation of art first-hand. He has nonstop incredible ideas.” 

    Chris Coleman Introduction PhotoColeman is something of a renaissance man. Before he leaves Portland, he will direct a two-part epic he adapted himself called Astoria, featuring a cast of 16. Based on the best-selling book by Peter Stark, it tells of the harrowing but little-known journeys west undertaken by President Thomas Jefferson and millionaire John Jacob Astor that served as turning points in the conquest of the North American continent. It’s a story Coleman imagines might be of interest to Denver Center audiences because it taps directly into the spirit of the west.

    (Pictured at above and right: Chris Coleman with husband Rodney Hickst o his right and, to his left: DCPA President and CEO Janice Sinden, and Chairman Martin Semple. Photo by Brittany Gutierrez for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    But his acting days are likely behind him, he says. These days, he is far more interested in ballot measures and fundraising and other administrative duties (he swears). He led the design and construction of Portland Center Stage’s new home in the 122-year-old Historic Portland Armory. That experience will be critical as the DCPA prepares to renovate both its Stage and Ricketson theatres within the next four years.

    Under Coleman, who earned his BFA from Baylor University and his MFA from Carnegie Mellon University, annual attendance at Portland Center Stage increased from 77,000 to 139,000. The average age of the audience dropped from 64 to 48. The company brings in about 7,600 students a year to see its plays.

    Coleman will direct his two-part adaptation of Astoria, followed by Major Barbara at Portland Center Stage before moving to Denver with his husband, Rodney Hicks, in May. In the meantime, he will work with DCPA Managing Director Charles Varin and Associate Artistic Directors Nataki Garrett and Charlie Miller to finalize the 2018-19 season selection.

    “I just think he is a great voice for the American theatre as a whole, and I can’t wait to see what he does to continue Kent’s legacy," Gunderson, said. “Oh my God, Denver is so lucky to get him.”  

    Video above: A 2015 interview with Portland Center Stage Artistic Director Chris Coleman.

    7 QUICK QUESTIONS WITH CHRIS COLEMAN:

    NUMBER 1Rodney Hicks King Lear Terry ShapiroHey, we already know your husband here in Denver: Rodney Hicks played bad-boy Edmund here in Kent Thompson’s 2007 production of King Lear. He was in the original Broadway cast of Rent and Come from Away. Is it safe to say he will be an active member of our acting community? It is not safe to say that. Rodney is totally excited about coming to Denver, and he wants to figure out what engaging with the artistic community here might look like for him. But his focus right now is primarily on film and television and his budding writing career. Rodney had a big career before we met, and there’s every reason to believe he will have a big career for the rest of his life. So while I think you will see him around Denver a lot, I am not sure you are ever going to see him onstage at the Denver Center.

    Pictured above right: Rodney Hicks as Edmund and Markus Potter as Edgar in the DCPA Theatre Company's 2007 production of 'King Lear.' Photo by Terry Shapiro.)


    NUMBER 2What was your introduction to theatre as a kid? It was my mom, who was trained as an actor. She started a drama ministry at our Southern Baptist church in the 1970s. So literally from the time I can remember, I was dragging angel wings around or operating a dimmer board or giving the actors their lines. So it's always been a part of my life. During my senior year in high school, it became clear that's what I wanted to pursue. And when I got to Baylor University I very quickly realized, 'This is what I want to do. This is the room I want to be in. This is my tribe of people.' 

    NUMBER 3How do you plan to move the dial when it comes to the national problem of equity, diversity and inclusion in the American theatre? As a gay man, I am on the bandwagon. I absolutely agree with the movement, and I believe it is high time for there to be opportunities for lots of different kinds of people in leadership roles. And I think there is a lot that any artistic leader can do to make positive changes, no matter that leader's gender and skin color. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who is more passionate and committed to move us forward on that front. That certainly was the case in Portland, and I expect that only to increase in Denver.

    NUMBER 4You may have heard that Denver Center audiences are passionate about their Shakespeare. Will there be a continuing commitment to Shakespeare? And if so — what kind of Shakespeare? There absolutely will be a continuing commitment to Shakespeare. Now, over the years, I have done every kind of radical Shakespeare reinvention you can possibly imagine. But then about four years ago, I thought: 'You know what would be really radical? To do a Shakespeare play in the period when it was actually written. That would be radical.’ I expect that I am probably more of a centrist when it comes to Shakespeare at this point in my life. What I value most is truthfulness, authenticity and the ability for an audience to engage emotionally. I just want audiences to take the whole ride and not sit back.

    NUMBER 5Should the DCPA Theatre Company be actively responding to the political polarization of the country right now? I think if you are doing interesting new plays, then that happens, whether you want it to or not. Politics tends to show up whenever you are talking about the things that are happening in our world. For example, when we programmed a new play we are staging right now called Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles, we already knew of course that immigration is a big issue in this country. But we had no idea how searingly hot it was going to be by the time we opened the play. It is delightful that Luis Alfaro’s play engages with the issues of the current moment, but that’s not why we did it. We did it because we liked the play. But the issue allowed us to build community partnerships around the play that are absolutely conscious of engaging with the conversation of the moment. For example, we have two symposiums in partnership with Catholic Charities that will include our attorney general, a leading immigration attorney, the deputy director of I.C.E. and two Dreamers. That kind of thing is totally in our zone. It’s not just pushing one point of view. It’s bringing together many sides and deepening the conversation you just experienced on the stage.

    NUMBER 6george-bernard-shaw-9480925-1-402So what’s with your love for George Bernard Shaw? I will tell you: The play we are doing this season that most directly engages the executive leadership of this country is Major Barbara — which of course never refers to America or our current president because it was written in 1907. But the themes are uncannily resonant.

    NUMBER 7Is there a place for current DCPA Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett on your team? I have actually known Nataki Garrett for 20 years because she stage-managed a show I acted in back in Atlanta. I have enormous respect and fondness for her, and I was delighted when she was hired to be the Associate Artistic Director here. I anticipate that she will continue in that role until she decides she doesn’t want it anymore. I also know there are a lot of people around the country who have noted Nataki's leadership capabilities, so I suspect there are people knocking at her door.

    NUMBER 8DCPA Education just launched its Theatre for Young Audiences program with a production of The Snowy Day that is directed at pre-kindergarten through third graders, and it was made in full collaboration with the Theatre Company's design staff. How important is it for the Theatre Company to have a strong relationship with the Education division? It's critical to me. One, because we have to prepare future audiences. It is so easy today to walk through life without any real cultural participation of some kind. So I think it's critical that we create, invent and provide as many on-ramps as we can. So education, outreach, and using every opportunity we can to build community relationships with people is just huge.

    John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S. by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.

  • Denver Center taking new plays to new level in 2017-18

    by John Moore | Jul 02, 2017

    Lauren Yee. The Great Leap
    Lauren Yee’s 'The Great Leap,' which was introduced as a reading at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit, will premiere at the Denver Center next February, then re-open at the Seattle Rep just 12 days after closing here. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Companies are now jumping on new Denver Center works before they have even been fully staged here.

    By John Moore
    Senior Arts Journalist

    The Denver Center is taking a major step forward in its development of new work for the American theatre in 2017. And one major reason is a hip new term in the theatrical lexicon: “Co-Pro.”

    For the first time, the DCPA Theatre Company will stage two new plays next season that will immediately transfer to major theatres around the country as essentially continuing world premieres. They will quickly re-open in their second cities with their Denver Center directors and casts intact.

    American Mariachi. Summit The Theatre Company opens José Cruz González’s American Mariachi on Jan. 26, 2018. Less than a month after it closes in Denver, the production will re-open at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap, which bows in Denver on Feb. 2, will re-open at the Seattle Rep just 12 days after closing here.

    By virtue of these unique partnerships, both stagings are considered “co-productions.” Or, as the kids say, “Co-Pros.” Coincidentally, the re-opening nights in San Diego and Seattle will both take place on March 23.

    (Pictured above right: 'American Mariachi' was introduced as a reading at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

    For 12 years, artistic leaders from around the country have come to the Denver Center’s Colorado New Play Summit each February to see readings of developing new works, then come back the next year to see the subsequent fully staged world-premiere productions before scheduling some of the plays themselves. Among the popular titles that have expanded through this slow growth plan have been Jason Grote’s 1001 and Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale.

    But now companies are coming here to see readings and committing to scheduling them even before they are fully staged at the Denver Center for the first time.

    Matt McGrath in 'The Legend of Georgia McBride.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. All this comes at a time when Denver Center-born works are proliferating on national stages like never before. In 2017, Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride will become the most-produced new Denver Center work since Quilters in 1982. Ten companies this year are presenting the story of a straight man who explores the world of drag to feed his family in cities stretching from Los Angeles to Key West, Fla., with four more already slated for 2018. Lopez’s newest work, Zoey’s Perfect Wedding, will debut at the DCPA’s Space Theatre next Jan. 19.

    (Pictured above right: Matt McGrath in the Denver Center's 2014 world premiere of 'The Legend of Georgia McBride.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.) 

    How Georgia McBride has evolved since Denver

    Since former Artistic Director Kent Thompson launched the Colorado New Play Summit in 2006, the DCPA has given 27 new plays their world-premiere stagings. At least 32 productions of 13 DCPA-born works are being presented around the country this year and next, most notably a high-profile return of the reimagined The Unsinkable Molly Brown, which plays from July 21-27 at The Muny in St. Louis. The Muny is America’s largest outdoor musical theatre. After that, star Beth Malone said, the goal is Broadway.

    LEAD MOLLY"That is absolutely the intention of putting it up at The Muny,” Malone said. “There is no other reason than for it go to Broadway. Everyone involved with it feels very strongly that we are completely on track.”

    (Pictured at right: The cast of the DCPA Theatre Company's 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown.' Photo by Adams VisCom.)

    Last week, two recent Colorado New Play Summit readings landed on The Kilroys, a curated list of the 31 most promising new plays by women: Yee's The Great Leap and Donnetta Lavinia Grays' Last Night and the Night Before.

    NATAKI GARRETT 3Even older new plays like Octavio Solis' Lydia (2008) are still making an impact. “Lydia is a blast-furnace drama now in its Seattle debut in a blistering, urgent staging from Strawberry Theatre Workshop," Misha Berson of the Seattle Times wrote last month of a "forcefully directed ensemble of visceral power." Last year, the Aurora Fox became the first company to stage the Denver Center’s Native American premiere of Black Elk Speaks since 1996.

    All of this proliferation is not only changing the way the nation looks at the Denver Center, said Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett. It is changing how the Denver Center looks at itself.

    “The Colorado New Play Summit is a nationally renowned place where theatre companies from all over the United States come to see those playwrights who are moving up in the ranks and becoming the clarions for the future of playwriting,” she said.  “But I think this is where it was always heading. The most important part of the work we do as theatre artists is to foster and develop new work, and I think this is that idea coming to full fruition.”

    (Story continues after the video)

    Video spotlight: American Mariachi



    What makes for a successful Co-Pro, Garrett said, is the continuation of the Denver Center’s commitment to the playwright once the new play reaches its immediate second destination.

    “What I am really focused on with these companies is, 'Are you willing to make space for that writer to keep writing?’ ” Garrett said. “The whole point is to for them to be able to keep evolving their piece after they leave Denver, if that’s what the piece needs.”

    The Theatre Company’s commissioning program is one reason the pipeline stays stocked. At any given time, the company has a number of renowned and emerging playwrights under commissions. That essentially binds the playwright to write a new work of his or her choice, and the DCPA Theatre Company then has the right of first refusal to stage it. The playwrights with commissions in progress are:

    • Kemp Powers
    • Anne Garcia-Romero
    • Aleshea Harris
    • Mary Kathryn Nagle
    • Tony Meneses
    • David Jacobi
    • Regina Taylor

    John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.


    DCPA AROUND THE COUNTRY: 2017-18

    The Unsinkable Molly Brown, by Dick Scanlan and Meredith Willson: The 1960 musical that tells the rags-to-riches tale of Colorado's greatest heroine is infused with new songs and a new script.

    • The Muny, St. Louis, July 21-27, 2017

    The Book of Will, By Lauren Gunderson:  The untold story of the race to publish Shakespeare's First Folio before half his canon was lost to history.

    • Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, June 9-July 28, 2017
    • Northlight Theatre, Skokie, Ill., Nov. 9-Dec. 17, 2017
    • Round House Theatre, Bethesda, Md., Nov. 29-Dec. 24, 2017
    • Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, Ore., June-October, 2018

    The Great Leap, by Lauren Yee: An American college basketball team travels to Beijing in 1989.

    • American Conservatory Theatre New Strands Festival, San Francisco (reading), May 19, 2017
    • DCPA Theatre Company, Feb. 2-March 11, 2018
    • Seattle Rep, March 23-April 22, 2018 (co-world premiere)

    The Legend of Georgia McBride, by Matthew Lopez: A young Elvis impersonator turns to drag to feed his growing family.

    • Geffen Playhouse, Los Angeles, April 4-May 14, 2017
    • GableStage, Coral Gables, Fla., May 27-June 25, 2017
    • Marin Theatre Company, San Francisco, June 8-July 9, 2017
    • ACT Theatre, Seattle, June 9-July 2, 2017
    • Theatre Nova, Detroit, June 9- July 9, 2017
    • Dorset Theatre Festival, Vermont, Aug. 3-19, 2017
    • Northlight Theatre, Skokie, Ill., Sept. 14-Oct. 22, 2017
    • Hippodrome State Theatre, Gainesville, Fla., Oct. 13-Nov. 5, 2017
    • B Street Theatre, Sacramento, Calif.,Nov. 6-Dec. 9, 2017
    • Uptown Players, Dallas, Dec. 1-17, 2017
    • Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis, March 23-April 22, 2018
    • Key West Players, Key West, Fla., May 2-19, 2018
    • Stoneham Theatre, Stoneham Mass., May 3-20, 2018
    • Round House Theatre, Bethesda, Md., June 8-July 1, 2018

    American Mariachi, by Jose Cruz Gonzalez: The musical tale of an all-female mariachi band in the 1970s.

    • DCPA Theatre Company, Jan. 26-Feb. 25, 2018
    • Old Globe (San Diego), March 23-April 29, 2018 (co-world premiere)

    Just Like Us, by Karen Zacarías: Documentary-style play follows four Latina teenage girls in Denver - two are documented, two are not.

    • Visión Latino Theatre Company, Feb. 24-March 12, 2017

    Dusty and the Big Bad World, by Cusi Cram: When a popular children’s TV  show spotlights a family with two daddies, it sparks a conservative outcry.

    • Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, July 6-19, 2017

    Appoggiatura, by James Still: A trip to Venice brings love, loss, pain and joy to three weary travelers in search of healing and happiness in a magical story filled with music and amore.
    • Indiana Repertory Theatre, March 7-31, 2018

    FADE, by Tanya Saracho: When Mexican-born Lucia is hired to write for a Latina TV character, she finds an unexpected muse in the Latino studio custodian.
    • Cherry Lane Theatre, New York, Feb. 8-March 5, 2017
    • TheatreWorks, Hartford, June 1-30, 2017

    Lydia, by Octavio Solis: A maid cares for a border family's near-vegetative teenage daughter who was left in a coma after a mysterious accident. 

    • Strawberry Theatre Workshop, Seattle, June 1-24, 2017

    Almost Heaven: The Songs and Stories of John Denver: The songwriter's life story is told through anecdotes and 21 songs.

    • Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre, Grand Lake, Sept. 1-30, 2017

    The Whale, by Samuel D. Hunter: An oversized, homebound and dying man struggles to reconcile with his estranged teenage daughter before it’s too late.
    • Verge Theatre Company, Nashville, June 2-14, 2017

    black odyssey, by Marcus Gardley: An imagination of Homer’s epic lens through the lens of the black American experience.
    • California Shakespeare Theatre, Orinda, Calif., Aug. 9-Sept. 3, 2017

    Quilters, by Molly Newman: A series of vignettes performed in song and spoken word that chart the joys and sorrows of the frontier journey West.

    • Ferndale (Calif.) Repertory Theatre, March 9-April 2, 2017

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter


    Video spotlight: The Great Leap

  • Vast and visceral: 2017-18 Theatre Company, Off-Center seasons

    by John Moore | Apr 03, 2017

     

    Macbeth, The Who's Tommy, four world premieres and
    "a deep dive into some truly exciting collaborations"

    By John Moore
    DCPA Senior Arts Journalist

    The DCPA Theatre Company’s 39th season will include vast and visceral reimaginings of two distinct cutting-edge classics, a record-tying four world premieres and the company's 25th staging of perennial favorite A Christmas Carol.

    The season begins in September with visionary director Robert O'Hara’s Macbeth to reopen the newly renovated Space Theatre, and builds to The Who’s rock musical Tommy, directed by Sam Buntrock (Frankenstein). And both directors promise ambitious stagings unlike anything audiences have seen before.

    Nataki Garrett QuoteThe DCPA has worked its way to the forefront of new-play development in the American theatre, and next season’s slate will include the comedy Zoey’s Perfect Wedding by former Playwright in Residence Matthew Lopez; José Cruz González’s American Mariachi, the musical tale of an all-female 1970s mariachi band; Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap, about an American college basketball team that travels to Beijing in 1989; and Eric Pfeffinger’s timely comedy Human Error, which raucously explores the great American ideological divide through two vastly different couples - and one wrongly implanted embryo.

    Zoey’s Perfect Wedding will reunite Lopez and Mike Donahue, writer and director from the DCPA’s endearing world premiere The Legend of Georgia McBride (which makes its West Coast debut tomorrow at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.)

    American Mariachi
    was a favorite from the Theatre Company's 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. "Women of course had many challenges trying to play in such a male-dominated musical form," González said. "We interviewed a number of amazing women who were able to help us enter into that world, and we found an amazing group of artists who will play and sing in the piece."

    The Great Leap and Human Error emerged from the recent 2017 Summit in February.  In The Great Leap, Yee explores sport as a metaphor for how countries rub up against each other in terms of strategy, styles and priorities. "If you think of all the sports out there, basketball is the one in which you can really lay the ideals of communism on top of it. Everyone gets to touch the ball. Everyone is equal in their position,” she says.

    Human Error will set a precedent as the first Theatre Company offering ever to be staged in the cabaret-style Garner-Galleria Theatre.

    “The 2017-18 DCPA Theatre Company season represents the microcosm at the heart of the American experiment,” said Associate Artistic Director Nataki Garrett. “These writers, spanning across generations, cultures, and genders, are exploring the ways in which our commonalities are more meaningful than our differences."

    2017-18 Broadway season brings Hamilton to Denver

    For the first time, the DCPA simultaneously announced the upcoming year of its adventurous and ambitious Off-Center line of programming. Off-Center is known for creating experiences that challenge conventions and expand on the traditional definition of theatre. Next season will be the largest yet for Off-Center. It includes Mixed Taste, a summer-long partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver; a 360-degree immersive staging of The Wild Party musical at the Stanley Marketplace. Also of great intrigue: Remote Denver, a  guided audio tour of the secret city; and This Is Modern Art, a controversial play by Idris Goodwin and Kevin Coval that explores graffiti as modern art ...  or urban terrorism.

    “The expansion of Off-Center is a result of the incredible response of the Denver community,” said Off-Center Curator (and Theatre Company Associate Artistic Director) Charlie Miller. “We have seen that audiences are hungry for a broad range of experiences, and are eager for the unexpected.”

    Miller calls the upcoming year "a deep dive into some truly exciting collaborations." A continuing one will be the return of The SantaLand Diaries, in partnership with Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company and again starring Michael Bouchard

    Combined, the DCPA today announced 14 upcoming new productions that will be presented across eight different venues at the Denver Performing Arts Complex and beyond.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    “Theater has the opportunity and the ability to help bridge our differences by offering performances that inspire us to seek deeper connections with one another,” said Garrett, who will make her DCPA debut directing Lydia Diamond's acclaimed race comedy Smart People. “We are honored to provide a space for conversations and connections to the Denver community this year through this season's offerings.”

    Lisa Portes Robert O'HaraMacbeth will be directed by Robert O'Hara, a rising playwright, director and screenwriter who won the 2010 NAACP Best Director Award and the 2010 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play. He was a young prodigy of original Angels in America Director George C. Wolfe and is perhaps best-known as a writer for Insurrection, a time-traveling play exploring racial and sexual identity. 

    The Who's Tommy, the rock musical based on the classic 1969 concept album about the pinball prodigy, will reunite acclaimed British Frankenstein director Sam Buntrock and Scenic Designer Jason Sherwood (who also will create the world of Macbeth). Native Gardens will mark the DCPA return of playwright Karen Zacarias, who wrote Just Like Us in 2014. Zacarias has penned a very close-to-home border-war story: One that plays out between two neighboring couples in D.C. who have a dispute over their property line. The director is Chicago's Lisa Portes, who recently won the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation's 2016 Zelda Fichandler Award, which recognizes an artist who is "transforming the regional arts landscape through singular creativity and artistry in the theatre." She is head of the masters program in directing at DePaul University.

    Next year's A Christmas Carol will be the 25th season staging of Dickens' classic by the DCPA since 1990. Melissa Rain Anderson will return for her second turn at directing, and popular longtime DCPA actor Sam Gregory again will play Scrooge.

    DCPA THEATRE COMPANY SEASON AT A GLANCE:

    • Sept. 15-Oct. 29: Robert O’Hara’s Macbeth (Space Theatre Grand Reopening)
    • Oct. 13-Nov. 19: Smart People (Ricketson Theatre)
    • Nov. 24-Dec. 24: A Christmas Carol (Stage Theatre)
    • Jan. 19-Feb. 25, 2018: Zoey’s Perfect Wedding (Space Theatre)
    • Jan. 26-Feb. 25, 2018: American Mariachi (Stage Theatre)
    • Feb. 2-March 11, 2018: The Great Leap (Ricketson Theatre)
    • April 6-May 6, 2018: Native Gardens (Space Theatre)
    • April 20-May 27, 2018: The Who's Tommy (Stage Theatre)
    • May 18-June 24, 2018: Human Error (Garner Galleria Theatre)

    DCPA OFF-CENTER 2017-18 SEASON AT A GLANCE:

    • July 5-Aug. 23 Mixed Taste, with MCA Denver (Seawell Grand Ballroom)
    • Oct. 12-31: The Wild Party (The Hangar at Stanley)
    • Nov. 24-Dec. 24: The SantaLand Diaries, with Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company (Jones Theatre)
    • March 22-April 15, 2018: This Is Modern Art (Jones Theatre)
    • Spring/Summer 2018: Remote Denver (on the streets of Denver)

    TC 2017-18 800

    And here is a more detailed look at all 14 newly announced productions, in chronological order:

    MIXED TASTE (Off-Center)
    mixed-tasteTag team lectures on unrelated topic
    Presented by Off-Center with MCA Denver
    Wednesdays from July 5 through Aug 23
    Seawell Grand Ballroom
    Even mismatched subjects will find common ground in a lecture series that can go pretty much anywhere. Two speakers get twenty minutes each to enlighten you on unrelated topics, but can’t make any connections to each other. Ideas start to blend afterward when audience members ask questions to both speakers and anything goes. READ MORE ABOUT IT



    MACBETH
    macbethBy William Shakespeare
    Directed by Robert O’Hara
    Sept. 15-Oct. 29
    Space Theatre (Grand Reopening)
    To get what he wants, Macbeth will let nothing stand in his way – not the lives of others, the people of Scotland or his own well-being. As his obsession takes command of his humanity and his sanity, the death toll rises and his suspicions mount. Shakespeare’s compact, brutal tragedy kicks off the grand reopening of our theatre-in-the-round in a visceral re-imagining from visionary director Robert O’Hara, who is “shaking up the world, one audience at a time” (The New York Times). This ambitious reinvention of the classic tale reminds us that no matter what fate is foretold, the man that chooses the dagger must suffer the consequences. 



    THE WILD PARTY
    (Off-Center)
    the-wild-partyMusic and Lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa
    Book by Michael John LaChiusa and George C. Wolfe
    Based on the poem by Joseph Moncure March
    Directed by Amanda Berg Wilson
    Oct. 12-31
    The Hangar at Stanley
    You’re invited to leave your inhibitions (and Prohibitions) behind for a decadent party in the Roaring Twenties. Indulge your inner flapper as you mingle with an unruly mix of vaudevillians, playboys, divas, and ingénues in a Manhattan apartment lost in time. Debauchery turns disastrous as wild guests becomes unhinged and their solo songs reveal the drama bubbling underneath the surface. Whether you’re a wallflower or a jitterbug, you’ll think this jazz- and booze-soaked immersive musical is the bee’s knees. Dress up in your finest pearls, suits and sequins – encouraged but not required.



    SMART PEOPLE

    smart-peopleBy Lydia R. Diamond
    Directed by Nataki Garrett
    Oct. 13-Nov. 19
    Ricketson Theatre
    Intelligence can only get you so far when it comes to navigating love, success and identity in the modern age. This biting comedy follows a quartet of Harvard intellectuals struggling to understand why the lives of so many people – including their own – continue to be undermined by race. But no matter how hard they research, question and confront the issue, their own problems with self-awareness make it difficult to face the facts of life. Fiercely clever dialogue and energetic vignettes keep the laughs coming in a story that Variety calls “Sexy, serious and very, very funny.”



    A CHRISTMAS CAROL

    christmas-carolBy Charles Dickens
    Adapted by Richard Hellesen
    Music by David de Berry
    Directed by Melissa Rain Anderson
    Nov. 24-Dec. 24
    Stage Theatre
    Essential to the holiday season in Denver, A Christmas Carol promises to “warm your heart and renew your holiday spirit” according to the Examiner. Based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel, this joyous and opulent musical adaptation traces money-hoarding skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge’s triumphant overnight journey to redemption. A Christmas Carol illuminates the meaning of the holiday season in a way that has resonated for generations. Denver favorite Sam Gregory returns as Scrooge. READ MORE ABOUT IT

    (Note: 'A Christmas Carol' is an added attraction, not part of the Theatre Company subscription season.)



    SantaLand Diaries 2016. Michael Bouchard. Photo by Adams VisCom
    'The SantaLand Diaries,' 2016. Michael Bouchard. Photo by Adams VisCom.

    THE SANTALAND DIARIES
    (Off-Center)
    By David Sedaris
    Adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello
    Presented by Off-Center with Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
    Directed by Stephen Weitz
    Nov. 24-Dec. 24
    The Jones Theatre
    This disgruntled Macy's elf has the cure for the common Christmas show. Looking for a little more snark in your stocking? Crumpet the Elf returns for more hilarious hijinks in this acclaimed one-man show based on stories by David Sedaris. Crumpet’s twisted tales from his stint in Macy’s SantaLand are the cure for the common Christmas show. Release your holiday stress, get all of those obnoxious carols out of your head and check out even more late night options this year. READ MORE ABOUT IT



    ZOEY'S PERFECT WEDDING

    zoeys-perfect-wedding2By Matthew Lopez
    Directed by Mike Donahue
    Jan. 19-Feb. 25, 2018
    Space Theatre
    The blushing bride. The touching toast. The celebration of true love. These are the dreams of Zoey’s big day…and the opposite of what it’s turning out to be. Disaster after disaster follow her down the aisle, from brutally honest boozy speeches to a totally incompetent wedding planner. Even worse, her friends are too preoccupied with their own relationship woes to help with the wreckage around them. From the team that brought you, The Legend of Georgia McBride, Matthew Lopez’s wildly funny fiasco destroys expectations with the realities of commitment, fidelity and growing up. READ OUR 2015 INTERVIEW WITH MATTHEW LOPEZ



    AMERICAN MARIACHI

    american-mariachi2By José Cruz González
    Director to be announced
    Jan. 26-Feb. 25, 2018
    The Stage Theatre
    Lucha and Bolie are ready to start their own all-female mariachi band in the 1970s. The only things standing in their way are a male-dominated music genre, patriarchal pressure from inside their families and finding the right women to fill out their sound. As they practice, perform and strive to earn the respect of their community, their music sparks a transformation in the lives of those around them – especially Lucha’s parents. This humorous, heartwarming story about music’s power to heal and connect includes gorgeous live mariachi music played on stage. González writes a passionate story about families and friendships that you should share with yours. READ OUR FULL INTERVIEW WITH JOSÉ CRUZ GONZÁLEZ


     

    THE GREAT LEAP
    the-great-leap2By Lauren Yee
    Director to be announced
    Feb. 2-March 11, 2018
    Ricketson Theatre
    When an American college basketball team travels to Beijing for an exhibition game in 1989, the drama on the court goes deeper than the strain between their countries. For two men with a past and one teen with a future, it’s a chance to stake their moment in history and claim personal victories off the scoreboard. American coach Saul grapples with his relevance to the sport, Chinese coach Wen Chang must decide his role in his rapidly-changing country and Chinese American player Manford seeks a lost connection. Tensions rise right up to the final buzzer as history collides with the action in the stadium. Yee’s “acute ear for contemporary speech” and a “devilishly keen satiric eye” (San Francisco Chronicle) creates an unexpected and touching story inspired by events in her own father’s life. READ OUR FULL INTERVIEW WITH LAUREN YEE


     

    THIS IS MODERN ART
    this-is-modern-artBy Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin
    Directed by Idris Goodwin
    March 22-April 15, 2018
    The Jones Theatre
    Graffiti crews are willing to risk anything for their art. Called vandals, criminals, even creative terrorists, Chicago graffiti artists set out night after night to make their voices heard and alter the way people view the world. But when one crew finishes the biggest graffiti bomb of their careers, the consequences get serious and spark a public debate asking, where does art belong? This Is Modern Art gives a glimpse into the lives of anonymous graffiti artists and asks us to question the true purpose of art. READ MORE ABOUT IT


    NATIVE GARDENS
    native-gardensBy Karen Zacarias
    Directed by Lisa Portes
    April 6-May 6, 2018
    Space Theatre
    Dealing with neighbors can be thorny, especially for Pablo and Tania, a young Latino couple who have just moved into a well-established D.C. neighborhood. Though Frank and Virginia have the best intentions for making the new couple feel welcome next door, their newly budding friendship is tested when they realize their shared property line isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Frank is afraid of losing his prized garden, Pablo wants what is legally his, Tania has a pregnancy and a thesis she’d rather be worrying about, and Virginia just wants some peace. But until they address the real roots of their problems, it’s all-out war in this heartfelt comedy about the lines that divide us and those that connect us.



    Sam Buntock

    THE WHO'S TOMMY
    the-whos-tommyMusic and Lyrics by Pete Townshend
    Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff
    Additional Music and Lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon
    Directed by Sam Buntrock
    April 20-May 27, 2018
    Stage Theatre
    Based on The Who’s iconic 1969 rock concept album, Tommy is an exhilarating musical about the challenges of self-discovery and the resilience of the human spirit. When young Tommy retreats into a world of darkness and silence after a deeply traumatic incident, he must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world with no hope of recovery. But when he discovers a newfound talent for pinball, he’s swept up in the fame and fortune of his success. Tommy and his family give new voice to The Who’s classic stadium rock as they navigate the troubles and joys of being alive. This production reunites director Sam Buntrock and scenic designer Jason Sherwood, the team behind last season’s audience favorite, Frankenstein.



    HUMAN ERROR

    human-error2By Eric Pfeffinger
    Director to be announced
    May 18-June 24, 2018
    Garner Galleria Theatre
    Madelyn and Keenan are NPR-listening, latte-sipping, blue-state liberals, while Heather and Jim are NRA-cardholding, truck-driving, red-state conservatives. After an unfortunate mix-up by their blundering fertility doctor, Heather is mistakenly impregnated with the wrong child. Now the two couples face sharing an uproarious nine-month’s odyssey of culture shock, clashing values, changing attitudes and unlikely – but heartfelt – friendships. “Up-and-coming scribe Eric Pfeffinger has the vital nerve to explore the gaping communication gap between red America and blue America, liberal humanists and the conservative right” (Chicago Tribune). READ OUR FULL INTERVIEW WITH ERIC PFEFFINGER


    REMOTE DENVER
    remote-denverBy Rimini Protokoll
    Concept, Script and Direction: Stefan Kaegi
    Research, Script and Direction Denver: Jörg Karrenbauer
    Spring/Summer 2018
    On the streets of Denver
    Join a group of 50 people swarming Denver on a guided audio tour that seems to follow you as much as you are following it. Experience a soundtrack to the streets, sights, and rooftops of The Mile High City as a computer-generated voice guides your group’s movements in real time. Discover a "secret Denver," exploring places like gathering spaces, back alleyways, dark hallways and public areas through a new lens. You’re not just audience members — you’re actors and spectators, observers and observed, individuals and hordes, all at the same time.

     

    TICKET INFORMATION:

    • Theatre Company: New and renewing subscribers have the first opportunity to reserve tickets. Subscription packages are available online at denvercenter.org/nextseason or by calling 303-893-4100. Subscribers enjoy free ticket exchanges, payment plans, priority offers to added attractions, discounted extra tickets, a dedicated VIP hotline, free events including talkbacks and receptions, and the best seats at the best prices, guaranteed. Single ticket on-sale date will be announced at a later time. Note: Plans for the new season are subject to change and benefit restrictions may apply.
    • Off-Center: The single-ticket on-sale date for all Off-Center productions will be announced at a later time. Subscriptions are not available for Off-Center shows.

     

     

  • Matthew Lopez among Perry-Mansfield featured playwrights

    by NewsCenter Staff | Jun 02, 2016
    Matthew Lopez. Photo by John Moore. Matthew Lopez, shown at the recent Colorado New Play Summit, is a featured writer in Steamboat Springs. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Every summer for nearly two decades, playwrights have retreated to the glorious Colorado mountains near Steamboat Springs to develop new plays in collaboration with some of the nation's leading theatre companies.
     
    Perry-Mansfield
    is a performing-arts school that attracts students from around the world and faculty renowned for their work in theatre, music and modern and contemporary dance,

    Perry-Mansfield's 19th Annual New Works Festival on June 10-11 will develop five new plays in partnership with the Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, The Lark, Primary Stages and South Coast Repertory.

    Among the featured writers are DCPA Theatre Company Playwright in Residence Matthew Lopez, who will be developing his latest work, Zoey’s Perfect Wedding. It is directed by Mike Donahue, with whom he collaborated on the DCPA world premiere The Legend of Georgia McBride.

    Andrew LeynseAnother featured playwright is Mat Smart, whose The Yes Ready Within is being developed by Primary Stages of New York City. Smart's Midwinter was a featured reading at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit.

    “For almost 20 years, Perry-Mansfield has been a haven of new-play development deep in the Rocky Mountains,” said Perry-Mansfield and Primary Stages Artistic Director Andrew Leynse (pictured right). “This year, more than 40 theatre artists from five leading institutions will join us in Steamboat Springs to collaborate and create something new. We are honored to welcome this diverse mix of voices and to be an important step in the life of these plays."

    The public is encouraged to join the artists and be among the first to experience these premiere plays before they go on to be produced across the country.

    Perry-Mansfield's 19th Annual New Works Festival

    I Now Pronounce
    By Tasha Gordon-Solmon
    Presented by Actors Theatre of Louisville
    Directed by Meredith McDonough
    Comedies end in marriage. Tragedies end in death. This play begins with both. A disaster at a wedding leads those involved to question their own life choices over the course of an increasingly strange night.

    Orange
    By Aditi Kapil
    Presented by South Coast Repertory
    Directed by Jessica Kubzansky
    Dramaturgy by Kimberly Colburn
    Leela is different. A teenager from India, she sketches life’s important moments in her journal, and she’s about to go on an adventure through Orange County. When a family wedding gets boring, her rebellious cousin decides to make a run for it with her boyfriend—taking Leela along. As they careen through the night, Leela challenges their view of her—and each other. A touching story about a unique young woman’s search for her place in the world.

    The Quiet Ones
    By Mary Elizabeth Hamilton
    Presented by The Lark
    Directed by John Clinton Eisner
    How do you function in a world that is evolving without you? Katherine’s old-school methods as a Kindergarten teacher have come under new scrutiny. She struggles to handle a disturbing event between two of her students, her only son is getting married and she can’t decide on a pair of shoes, and she is still working to recover from the break up of her family 17 years ago after her husband transitioned genders. As Katherine attempts to navigate a new culture using all the old rules, the fragility of her world-view becomes painfully clear. The Quiet Ones explores what is lost or gained as we evolve as people and as a society.

    The Yes Ready Within
    By Mat Smart
    Presented by Primary Stages
    Directed Henry Wishcamper
    Eden Prairie, Minnesota – 1971. On the night Apollo 15 lands on the moon, a draft dodger returns home to Eden Prairie from Canada. He risks arrest to deliver a message to a girl from his high school class. A play that asks: what does it mean to be brave?

    Zoey’s Perfect Wedding
    By Matthew Lopez
    Presented by the DCPA Theatre Company
    Directed by Mike Donahue
    Dramaturgy by Douglas Langworthy
    It's November 2008. Obama has just been elected and Zoey has just gotten married. One of these things is about to end in disaster. ZPW is a new comedy about hope, expectations and the inevitability of growing up.

    Perry-Mansfield

    Reading Schedule

    Friday, June 10, 4 p.m.: The Chief
    The Yes Ready Within by Mat Smart

    Friday, June 10, 8 p.m.: The Chief
    I Now Pronounce by Tasha Gordon-Solmon

    Saturday, June 11, 1 p.m.: Julie Harris Theater
    The Quiet Ones by Mary Elizabeth Hamilton

    Saturday, June 11, 4 p.m.: Julie Harris Theater
    Orange by Aditi Kapil

    Saturday, June 11, 8 p.m.: Julie Harris Theater
    Zoey’s Perfect Wedding by Matthew Lopez

    Ticket information
    Single tickets for each reading are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Festival passes start at $60. BUY HERE. For advance ticket reservations and other information, call 970-879-7125 and ask for Toni.

    About Perry-Mansfield
    The Perry-Mansfield New Works Festival, now in its 19th year, brings performing arts professionals together in the Rocky Mountains to continue Perry-Mansfield's founding principle of nurturing new talent with new work. Presented under Executive Producer Jim Steinberg with sponsorship from The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, Artistic Director, Andrew Leynse, (Primary Stages, NYC) and Grady Soapes, Associate Producer.

    The New Works program was founded in 1997 to provide a collaborative festival for voices in the arts. Students have the opportunity to interact and observe a professional new play development process and our guest artists get to craft their pieces in a relaxed environment with a very supportive staff and audience.

    Past festival works include Appoggiatura by James Still (DCPA Theatre Company and LAUNCH PAD); The Whistleblower by Itamar Moses (Pacific Playwrights Festival); The Few by Samuel D. Hunter (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater); Bronx Bombers by Eric Simonson (Broadway, Circle in the Square Theatre and Primary Stages); The Receptionist by Adam Bock (Manhattan Theatre Club); Lydia by Octavio Solis (DCPA Theatre Company, Yale Rep); The Blue Flower by Jim Bauer and Ruth Bauer (Prospect Theatre at the West End Theatre); Plainsong by Eric Schmiedl (DCPA Theatre Company); The Morini Strad by Willy Holtzman (Primary Stages, City Theatre); Maple and Vine by Jordan Harrison (Actors Theatre of Louisville, Playwrights Horizons); Eat Your Heart Out by Courtney Baron (Actors Theatre of Louisville); What's That Smell by David Pittu (Atlantic Theatre); and The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown with books and lyrics by Kait Kerrigan and music by Brian Lowdermilk (Goodspeed).

  • 2016 Colorado New Play Summit video: Local Playwrights Slam

    by John Moore | Mar 02, 2016



    The 2016 Colorado New Play Summit's Local Playwrights Slam was co-hosted by DCPA Theatre Company Playwright in Residence Matthew Lopez and the Athena Project, which is dedicated to supporting and expanding women’s voices.

    Local Playwrights Slam. Colorado New Play SummitSix local playwrights were invited to sample excerpts from upcoming works before an enthusiastic crowd of Summit attendees at The Jones Theatre on Feb. 13, 2016.

    In the video above, we talk to Athena Project Executive Producer Angela Astle and featured playwrights Rebecca Gorman O’Neill and Felice Locker about the Slam, and the need to champion women in the theatre. 

    "The perception is that women are actually equally represented onstage, and the reality is that they are not," said Astle. "Rather than gripe about what we are not getting as female playwrights and female artists, we are doing something about it.

    "Only 20 percent of plays produced are written by women, and that needs to change."

    Gorman O'Neill found her entire Local Slam experience to be a gift.

    "We’re all one big theatre community here in Denver," she said, "and the more we interact and intersect, the stronger the arts in Denver become." 

    The other featured playwrights were Lisa Wagner Erickson, Leslie C. Lewis, Catherine Wiley and Jennifer Faletto. Video by Kevin Strasser and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Photo coverage:
    2016 Local Playwrights Slam

    Photos from the 2016 Local Playwrights Slam. To see more photos, click the forward arrow on the image above. To download any photo for free, click on the image and follow the options. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Previous NewsCenter Coverage of 2016 Summit (to date):

    2016 Summit: An infusion of invisible color and hidden voices
    Summit Spotlight video: Lauren Gunderson, The Book of Will
    Summit Spotlight video: José Cruz González, American Mariachi
    Summit Spotlight Video: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Summit Spotlight Video: Mat Smart, Midwinter
    DCPA rolls out the welcome mat: It's Summit weekend
    2016 Summit playwrights introduce their featured works
    Three major Summit events to be streamed live
    Featured playwrights named for 2016 Summit
    Audio: Colorado Public Radio on the 2016 New Play Summit

  • 2016 Summit: An infusion of invisible color and hidden voices

    by John Moore | Feb 22, 2016
    2016 Colorado New Play Summit

    Photos from the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. To see more, just click the forward arrow on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. All photos are downloadable for free by clicking on a photo. You will be taken to the DCPA Flickr account for downloading.


    Many numbers were bandied about at the 11th and largest Colorado New Play Summit, among the most telling: Only 20 percent of all plays produced in this country last year were written by women, and half of all developing new works featured at the DCPA Theatre Company’s signature annual event have returned as fully staged productions.

    But perhaps the most remarkable stat is one that went almost unnoticed. And if it had not occurred to playwright José Cruz González, author of the 2016 Summit offering American Mariachi, it might have gone completely overlooked.

    “I realized that two of the four directors here at the Summit are Latino – and they are both directing non-Latino plays,” González said. “When I reflected on that, I thought, ‘Wow. That’s huge.’ And nothing is being said about it.”

    And the fact that it’s not a big deal “is why it’s a big deal,” said González, whose magical realism piece September Shoes was fully staged by Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson in his first season back in 2005, followed by the comedy Sunsets and Margaritas in 2008.

    “I have to take my hat off to Kent for his commitment to new work and to the different voices that need to be reflected in this country,” González said. “We don’t see that in a whole lot of places yet. I think what he’s doing here is important, and I hope our colleagues around the country will pick up the ball and do what needs to be done. We need variety, and we need to hear those hidden voices. I think that’s what Kent is doing.”

    This 11th Colorado New Play Summit was just the second since expanding to two weeks. Now, four creative teams gather in Denver for a full week of development before a first weekend of public readings. In the past, the playwrights then returned to their elsewhere lives, and that was that. Now, each team takes a breather while the playwrights turn lessons learned into actual new script pages. After a second week of intensive rewriting and rehearsal time, there is another round of weekend readings, with many of the industry’s most prominent national figures in attendance. And that plants seeds for a possible future life for these developing new works.

    Four short videos spotlighting each of the featured plays at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Videos by John Moore and David Lenk.


    “Time really is the key thing for new-play development, and so the luxury of having that second week is huge,” González said. On a very practical level, the extra time helped him to focus on two unsolved issues.

    “One of my major questions coming in was, ‘Is American Mariachi a play with music, or should it just be a full-on musical?’” González said. “Now I’m leaning more and more toward the idea that this is a play with music. Another question I had was about two characters who really don’t ever speak through the course of the play. Having these great actors play those roles has really fleshed out those characters. “

    We asked all four featured playwrights to comment on the Summit’s expanded two-week time frame. Here’s what else they told us:

    • Lauren Gunderson (The Book of Will): “Having two weekends of readings is incredibly valuable. You never know a play until there’s an audience. And we learned so much from our first reading. To then be able to really sink in and do the hard thinking and the collaborative work a new play requires …  that’s really what this process allows for, and I am incredibly grateful for that.”
    • Tira Palmquist (Two Degrees): “The reading after the first week feels in a way like ‘proof of concept.’ Like: ‘OK, we did this first week, and we got it on its feet, and we got it in front of an audience.’ And then you get to hear how an audience responds - what lands and what doesn’t. One of the things that’s lovely about the second week is that now you have the opportunity to go through and fine-tune anything that you didn’t really get to polish. And you can answer questions you didn’t really get to answer during the first week.” 
    • Mat Smart (Midwinter): “The second week has made all the difference for me. I took a good first step with the play during the first week, but I would say that I really discovered what the play is and who the characters are and what the big moments are just in the past couple of days. So I’m very grateful for the opportunity to have another week to take a crack at it.

    And what of Denver’s growing reputation an incubator of new works for the American theatre?

    • Lauren Gunderson: “Everyone who knows new plays knows about the Colorado New Play Summit now. It’s a place to gather to see new plays. It’s a place for community. It’s a place to just do the work – the real work. Everyone knows about the commitment to new plays here. And I’m excited that the community of people who know it gets bigger every year.”
    • Tira Palmquist: “People are noticing that Denver is really interested not just in having a festival, but actually developing new plays. Not all festivals do both. I’ve been in a lot of festivals where it feels like the plays are sort of thrown up in front of an audience. But if you’re really interested in play development, then really taking the time to do it right and attend to the playwright’s needs, then this is the way it should be done.”
    • Mat Smart: “The Denver Center’s national reputation is that it has a great passion for new plays, and an audience for them, and the resources to back them up and support them the way they need to be supported.”

    A Summit 600 2
    The cast of 'American Mariachi' at the closing party for the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    Summarizing his Summit experience, González said: “I have to tell you, it is a rare thing in this country when you can feel like this is an artistic home, and you can take chances and create art.”

    Summit QuoteGunderson’s The Book of Will, which explores how Shakespeare’s friends rallied to have his complete works published for the first time following his death, is a commissioned piece through the Denver Center’s Women’s Voices Fund. That is a $1 million fund dedicated to making plays written and directed by women. “Just give women the agency, the encouragement, the support both financial and personal to write more plays,” she said. “Sometimes when you have a problem, you just have to fix it – like they have done here in Denver.”

    More than ever, the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit spotlighted playwrights who are currently working in the Theatre Company’s commissioning pipeline. Commissioned playwrights are those who have been contracted by the company to write a new play, and Thompson then gets first consideration whether to further develop those plays.

    Robert Schenkkan (All the Way, The 12), Kemp Powers (One Night in Miami), Regina Taylor (Crowns, Drowning Crow), Rogelio Martinez (When Tang Met Laika), Anne Garcia-Romero (Earthquake ChicaLauren Yee (Ching Chong Chinaman), Eric Schmiedl (Benediction) and Andrew Hinderacker (Colossal) were among those who came to Denver for the full two weeks. In addition to giving the playwrights time to focus on their own developing works, most also participated in panel conversations and other activities.

    Read our Week 1 Summit re-cap

    One event, “Dialogue on Dialogue,” was a panel conversation that explored what makes for a great first scene. But rather than have the playwrights simply read from their own works, host (and Theatre Company Playwright in Residence) Matthew Lopez assigned them roles from both contemporary and classic plays such as The Glass Menagerie. Those in attendance who saw Regina Taylor and Robert Schenkkan read as George and Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf won’t soon forget it (photo below).

    summit Regina Taytlor Robert Schenkkan


    Kemp Powers, who was attending his first Colorado New Play Summit, said he “was completely humbled” by the experience. He was particularly impressed by the span of industry leaders visiting from theatrical nerve centers such New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and here in Denver.

    “Being a playwright is such a solitary endeavor that it's easy to forget how valuable it is to connect with your peers within the national community,” he said. “Getting some much-needed time to work on my commission was wonderful. Seeing the works of other playwrights at this early stage of development was nothing short of inspirational.”

    Summit Teen playwritingThe Saturday program culminated with a lively presentation of readings by three teenage Colorado writers. The one-acts were chosen from among 212 statewide submissions to DCPA Education’s third annual Regional High School Playwriting Workshop and Competition. At the Summit, professional and student actors joined forces to read plays by Kendra Knapp of Valor Christian High School, Jessica Wood of Denver Christian High School and Gabrielle Moore of D’Evelyn High School (pictured above).

    The three finalists received mentorship from Rogelio Martinez, Anne Garcia-Gomez and Lauren Yee. Education staff will choose one of their three plays to be fully produced as part of its 2016 summer program.

    "This opportunity was a great help," said Wood. "Maybe we are not all going to be playwrights when we grow up. Maybe we are not even going to write. But this has certainly helped us improve our skills. We understand more about the theatre. We understand more about the massive process that goes into creating a play. And I think we understand a lot more about the power of words.”

    Previous NewsCenter Coverage of 2016 Summit (to date):
    Summit Spotlight video: Lauren Gunderson, The Book of Will
    Summit Spotlight video: José Cruz González, American Mariachi
    Summit Spotlight Video: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Summit Spotlight Video: Mat Smart, Midwinter
    DCPA rolls out the welcome mat: It's Summit weekend
    2016 Summit playwrights introduce their featured works
    Three major Summit events to be streamed live
    Featured playwrights named for 2016 Summit
    Audio: Colorado Public Radio on the 2016 New Play Summit

    DCPA commissioned playwrights. DCPA commissioned playwrights and staff. Clockwise from left: DCPA CEO Scott Shiller, Andrew Hinderacker, Lauren Yee, Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson, Kemp Powers, Robert Schenkkan, Mat Smart, Regina Taylor, Anne Garcia-Romero, DCPA Playwright in Residence Matthew Lopez and Rogelio Martinez.
  • DCPA rolls out the welcome mat: It's Summit weekend

    by John Moore | Feb 16, 2016
    2016 Colorado New Play Summit

    Photos from the first week of the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Above, DCPA Theatre Company Playwright in Residence Matthew Lopez. To see our full photo gallery, click the 'forward' button on the image above. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 


    At a time when the national theatre conversation is at last fixed on the sadly unchanging topic of gender disparity in American playwriting, the Denver Center's 11th and largest annual Colorado New Play Summit is shaping up to be a veritable celebration of the woman’s voice.

    The two fully produced world-premiere plays that are being presented for local and national audiences were written by women. Two of the four playwrights whose developing works have been selected to be featured at this year’s Summit are women. The second-ever Local Playwrights Slam held last weekend was curated by a company dedicated to supporting artistic contributions by women, and thus featured an all-female playwriting lineup. And the three teen playwrights whose works were blindly chosen from a field of 212 statewide submissions to be presented Saturday in the third annual Regional High School Playwriting Workshop and Competition are all Colorado female high-school students.

    “All of that gives me hope,” said Angela Astle, Executive Director of the Athena Project and host of the Local Playwrights Slam that was held in the Jones Theatre on Feb. 13. “We’ve got a movement started that recognizes women are truly underrepresented in the American theatre.

    “Only 20 percent of all plays produced in this country are written by women, and we need to change that.”

    The 2016 Colorado New Play Summit, which last year expanded to two weeks to add additional development time and a second round of public readings, is expected to draw more local audiences and national industry leaders than ever before. Attendees are coming from 25 states and represent companies ranging from The Roundabout Theatre Company in New York, the Alley Theatre in Houston, the Arena Stage in Washington D.C., the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and, closer to home, the Creede Repertory Theatre, Su Teatro and Arvada Center.

    Nicole Rodenburg Colorado New Play Summit.
    Nicole Rodenburg in 'Midwinter' at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

    They will be treated to fully staged performances of Theresa Rebeck’s The Nest, Tanya Saracho’s FADE, the four featured Summit readings, several panel discussions hosted by DCPA Theatre Company Playwright in Residence Matthew Lopez (The Legend of Georgia McBride) and a live demonstration of the Third Rail Projects’ upcoming immersive, experiential new work it is developing with the DCPA and local artists. The world premiere, commissioned by the DCPA, will begin performances in May.

    DCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director (and Summit founder) Kent Thompson’s burgeoning commission program also will be on full display at the Summit. Commissioned playwrights are those who have been contracted by the Denver Center to write a new play. Thompson then gets first consideration whether to further develop those plays. The lineup for this weekend's second Playwriting Slam will include many of  those commissioned playwrights who are attending the 2016 Summit. It takes place at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday in the Jones Theatre.

    Colorado New Play Summit. Teen playwriting. The lineup will include some of the biggest names in American playwriting, including Robert Schenkkan (All the Way, The 12), Kemp Powers (One Night in Miami), Regina Taylor (Crowns), Rogelio Martinez (When Tang Met Laika), Anne Garcia-Romero, Lauren Yee and Andrew Hinderacker.

    The 2016 Summit will also go down in history as the first time an event held at the DCPA was livestreamed. Audiences around the world have access to three Summit panel conversations on their computers via HowlRoundTV, a peer-produced online network. The first featured Third Rail Projects founder Zach Morris (a Colorado native) and co-Artistic Director Tom Pearson talking about the company’s upcoming partnership with the DCPA.

    HowlRoundTV also will broadcast a dialogue hosted by Lopez about playwrights and their processes on Thursday (Feb. 18), as well as the Playwrights Slam on Friday (Feb. 19).

    (Pictured above right: SunHee Seo appears in 'Divinity of Hell,' by Gabrielle Moore, one of the three finalists for the third annual Regional High School Playwriting Competition for Colorado high-school students. The three one-acts will be read on Saturday (Feb. 20) at 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. in the Conservatory Theatre.) 

    The Colorado New Play Summit has grown into one of the nation’s premier showcases of new plays. In its first decade, 44 new plays were introduced at the Summit, and more than half have returned as fully staged Theatre Company productions.

    Athena Project Local Playwrights Slam Colorado New Play Summit
    The featured playwrights in this year’s Colorado New Play Summit Local Playwrights Slam hosted by the Athena Project. Executive Producer and Slam host Angela Astle passed out photo placards (each featuring women artists ranging from Britney Spears to Julie Andrews) to every fifth audience member. She then asked those with placards to stand to illustrate the point that only 20 percent of all plays produced in America are written by women. From left: Lisa Wagner Erickson, Rebecca Gorman O’Neill, Leslie C. Lewis, Catherine Wiley, Jennifer Faletto, Felice Locker and Astle. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

    The four featured Summit readings will take audiences from 1616 England to present-day South Pole. Here is a brief look at each:

    2016 Colorado New Play Summit: Featured readings  at a glance

    • José Cruz González’s American Mariachi is a new piece inspired by women who overcame great obstacles to form their own mariachi groups in Los Angeles during the male-dominated 1970s.
    • Lauren Gunderson’s The Book of Will tackles the history right after Shakespeare died by telling how his friends and fellow actors valiantly managed to publish the first folio of The Bard’s great works.
    • Tira Palmquist describes her Two Degrees as “a cheery story about climate change.” Her main character is a female climate scientist but her play is really about grief, she said. “Grief for the planet, grief at large, grief on a more personal scale."
    • Mat Smart’s Midwinter was inspired by his time working at a research center on Antarctica. “One thing that's interesting about the station is that the people there fall in and out of love and have these epic relationships for, like, two weeks - and it's very genuine,” said Smart, whose calls his story a riff on A Midsummer Night's Dream.


    2016 Colorado New Play Summit: Ticket information

    Second weekend (Festival Weekend): Friday, Feb. 19, through Sunday, Feb. 21
    303-893-4100 or INFO

    Previous NewsCenter Coverage of 2016 Summit (to date):
    2016
    Summit playwrights introduce their featured works
    Three major Summit events to be streamed live
    Featured playwrights named for 2016 Summit
    Audio: Colorado Public Radio on the 2016 New Play Summit

  • 2016 Colorado New Play Summit to be streamed live

    by John Moore | Feb 13, 2016
    Matthew Lopez 2016. Photo by John Moore
    DCPA Theatre Company 2014-15 Playwright in Residence Matthew Lopez will lead a panel conversation opn playwriting that will be live streamed on Feb. 18. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


    Three major events at The Denver Center for the Performing Arts' 2016 Colorado New Play Summit will be livestreamed around the world by HowlRound, a peer-produced online TV network, between Feb. 14 and 19:

    CNPS_Logo_2016 225Devised Work Panel with Third Rail Projects
    Sunday, Feb. 14
    9 a.m. PST (Los Angeles)
    10 a.m. MST (Denver)
    11 a.m. CST (Chicago)
    Noon EST (New York)
    Join the DCPA and Third Rail Projects, one of the foremost companies creating site-specific, immersive, and experiential dance theatre in the U.S, for a panel discussion on creating devised work. Third Rail Projects’ current productions include Then She Fell and The Grand Paradise. The DCPA is the first regional theatre in the country to commission Third Rail Projects, and together the companies are creating a new immersive piece that will premiere in May at a site to be announced.  

    Dialogue on Dialogue Roundtable
    Thursday, Feb. 18
    6 p.m. PST (Los Angeles)
    7 p.m. MST (Denver)
    8 p.m. CST (Chicago)
    9 p.m. EST (New York)
    Join playwright Matthew Lopez (The Legend of Georgia McBride) and some of our acclaimed commissioned writers for a roundtable discussion about their writing processes, favorite first scenes, and more. After live scene readings, playwrights will give a glimpse inside the inspiration, frustration and “ah-ha!” moments of writing a script. Playwrights include: Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Schenkkan (All the Way, The 12, The Kentucky Cycle); Anne Garcia-Romero (Santa ConcepciónPaloma); and Susan Smith Blackburn nominee Lauren Yee (Samsara, in a word, The Hatmaker’s Wife).

    Late Night Playwrights’ Slam
    Friday, Feb. 19
    8:30 p.m. PST (Los Angeles)
    9:30 p.m. MST (Denver)
    10:30 p.m. CST (Chicago)
    11:30 p.m. EST (New York)
    Tune in as playwrights from around the country debut excerpts brand-new works-in-progress in front of a live audience in the Jones Theatre. Featuring:

    • DCPA commissioned writers Rogelio Martinez, Kemp Powers, Robert Schenkkan, Regina Taylor, Lauren Yee
    • DCPA Playwright in Residence Matthew Lopez
    • Colorado playwright Andrew Hinderacker (with guest Brett Schneider)

    WATCH LIVE FROM ANY EVENT ABOVE BY CLICKING HERE



    About the Colorado New Play Summit

    Hailed as a “a must-see stop for new-play development” by American Theatre Magazine, the Colorado New Play Summit has introduced 44 new plays, over half of which returned to the stage as full Theatre Company productions. Recent Summit World Premieres include Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride (which made it’s Off-Broadway debut at the MCC Theater), Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale, Eric Schmiedl’s adaptation of Kent Haruf’s Benediction, Catherine Trieschmann’s The Most Deserving, Marcus Gardley’s black odyssey, Karen Zacarias’s Just Like Us, Jeffrey Haddow and Neal Hampton’s Sense and Sensibility The Musical, and Dick Scanlan’s reimagined version of The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

    CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON THE COLORADO NEW PLAY SUMMIT



    About HowlRound TV

    HowlRound TV is a global, commons-based peer-produced, open access livestreaming and video archive project stewarded by HowlRound, a knowledge commons by and for the theatre, arts, and cultural community. The channel is at howlround.tv and is a free and shared resource for live events and performances relevant to the world's performing arts fields. Its mission is to break geographic isolation, promote resource sharing, and to develop our knowledge commons collectively. Follow and use hashtag #howlround in Twitter to participate in a community of peers revolutionizing the flow of information, knowledge, and access in our field.

    CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE HOWLROUND HOME PAGE
  • 'The Legend of Georgia McBride' charms New York critics

    by John Moore | Sep 10, 2015

    MCC Theatre's 'The Legend of Georgia McBride.' Photo by Joan Marcus.
    Dave Thomas Brown as Casey in MCC Theatre's 'The Legend of Georgia McBride.' Photo by Joan Marcus.


    New York theatre critics generally lauded the Denver Center-born comedy The Legend of Georgia McBride after its high-energy off-Broadway opening last night. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times led the way, praising Matthew Lopez’s heartfelt comedy as "a first-rate production."

    Isherwood, one of the most respected (and feared) theatre critics in America, called the MCC Theatre’s staging “a stitch-in-your-side comedy” that is “full of sass and good spirits — along with a spritz or two of sentimentality."

    With "quips flying like shuttlecocks," he continued, "there's as much richly catty humor here as in a full season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, along with some clever pop-culture gags. The Sound of Music joke alone is worth the price of admission."

    The Legend of Georgia McBride joins The Most Deserving and The Whale as recent DCPA Theatre Company world premieres that have found continued life on New York stages. Just Like Us and The House of the Spirits are other recent premieres that have been picked up outside of New York. Counting the upcoming Fade and The Nest, Kent Thompson has now slated 27 world premieres in his 11 years as Producing Artistic Director. He not only believes his legacy in Denver will one day be judged by those numbers — he has said he wants it to be.

    The Legend of Georgia McBride which was developed through Thompson's annual Colorado New Play Summit, is Lopez’s genial story of a broke Elvis impersonator who, in desperation, resorts to becoming a drag queen to support his growing family – and finds that he loves it. It is a fast-moving comedy about finding your true voice … complete with several high-energy drag numbers.

    The MCC Theatre production is directed by Mike Donahue, who also helmed the world premiere staging at the DCPA in February 2014. Isherwood called Donahue's direction snappy and “totally flawless.”

    Isherwood was particularly charmed by Matt McGrath's performance as an aging drag queen named Miss Tracy. McGrath is the only common cast member from the Denver staging. Isherwood wrote:

    Most impressively, while drag queens have practically become stock characters in pop culture, Mr. McGrath imbues his version with a life-hardened authenticity underneath the garish wig and the cracking makeup; there isn’t a trace of caricature in his portrayal of the sweetly maternal Tracy. Mr. Lopez has naturally given Tracy the play’s choicest bons mots, but Mr. McGrath also achieves the signal feat of making Tracy’s flip wit feel spontaneous and fresh.

    Assuming the role of Casey, the Elvis impersonator-turned-drag queen, Isherwood called  Dave Thomas Brown's move from a laid-back country boy to glittering, acid-tongued drag performer "a delight."

    Several of the New York critics expressed surprise that Lopez is the same playwright who previously broke through with his weighty Civil War slavery drama, The Whipping Man. Some were thrown to find Georgia McBride to be a much more intentionally uncomplicated comedy. Isherwood cited the potential to delve more deeply into what making a living as a drag queen might do to a country-bred heterosexual man’s psyche. Likewise, Alexis Soloski of The Guardian said questions of gender and sexuality remain unexplored. But that issue was more than countered, she felt, by “the cheerful abandon with which director Mike Donahue and his cast plan and execute the musical numbers." She wrote:

    McGrath, long reliable as a character actor, is a particular wonder, especially in a terrifying medley that jumbles pretty much every Broadway ballad and some pop ones, too. His Tracy is an utter caricature, though always somehow sympathetic and credible. And McGrath looks surprisingly good in capris.

    By contrast, Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News found the play to be “deceptively deep.” He found the relationship between Casey and his wife, Jo, to be filled with tenderness. “Lopez’s latest play may not make him a legend, but it confirms his status as a writer worth hearing from,” he wrote.

    Here are more excerpts from the reviews:

    Matt McGrath in MCC Theatre's 'The Legend of Georgia McBride.' Photo by Joan Marcus. Matt Windman of amNewYork called the play a heartfelt, feel-good comedy: “Once it gets going, some very funny exchanges and polished drag sequences follow, plus a spirited defense of drag as a form of cultural protest and a way of life. McGrath is terrific as Miss Tracy Mills, a witty and aging drag queen.”

    Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter called the play sleek and fast-paced: “Featuring enough amusingly bitchy one-liners and energetic musical numbers to be a genuine crowd-pleaser, the play is frothy to the extreme, a show for people who find Mamma Mia heavy lifting. But its relentless silliness is sweet and amiable enough to make it go down easy.”

    (Pictured right: Matt McGrath in MCC Theatre's 'The Legend of Georgia McBride.' Photo by Joan Marcus.)

    Adam Feldman of Time Out New York: “A Queer Eye for the Straight Guy version of Tootsie, Matthew Lopez's feel-good comedy delivers many of the diversions that its premise suggests. Directed by Mike Donahue, on a terrific set by Donyale Werle, the production features silly-glam costumes and snappy one-liners for the queens, an amusing learning-curve montage for our hero and several zippy musical numbers, including a delightful show-tune medley. And McGrath is soup-to-nuts wonderful as Tracy: seasoned, sympathetic and shrewdly funny. But the other characters rarely get beyond the formulaic beats of the plot.

    The Legend of Georgia McBride: Production information
    By Matthew Lopez; directed by Mike Donahue; choreography by Paul McGill; sets by Donyale Werle; costumes by Anita Yavich; lighting by Ben Stanton; sound by Jill B C Du Boff; makeup and wig design by Jason Hayes; production manager, B. D. White; production stage manager, Lori Lundquist Featuring Dave Thomas Brown (Casey), Wayne Duvall (Eddie), Matt McGrath (Tracy), Keith Nobbs (Rexy/Jason) and Afton Williamson (Jo). Presented by MCC Theater, Robert LuPone, Bernard Telsey and William Cantler, artistic directors; Blake West, executive director. At the Lucille Lortel Theater, 866-811-4111, mcctheater.org. Through Sept. 27. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes with no intermission.

    SELECTED PREVIOUS NEWSCENTER COVERAGE OF GEORGIA McBRIDE:
    Georgia McBride to be staged in New York
    Photos: Opening night of The Legend of Georgia McBride
    Chairman and CEO Daniel Ritchie's drag transformation
    Matthew Lopez's trip down the straight and fabulous
    10 Ways Georgia McBride is going to blow your theatregoing mind​
    Matthew Lopez named DCPA Playwriting Fellow for 2014-15
    'Georgia McBride' team: 'Subtlety is our enemy'
    Video: It's Waxing Day for Georgia McBride actors. Yelp!​

  • Meet the cast video series: Amelia Marie Corrada

    by John Moore | Feb 26, 2015

    In this ongoing series, we briefly introduce you to the actors performing in our plays in a fun way. Episode 86: Meet Amelia Marie Corrada, a sophomore at Denver School of the Arts who is making her DCPA Theatre Company debut as bad girl Genevieve Larson, a bored Goth-like teen from fictional Holt who takes a passing liking to the preacher's kid, in Benediction.

    Amelia talks about her affinities for, among other things, ice cream, Shakespeare and playwright Matthew Lopez. Denver in fact, "may have the best ice cream in the world," she boldly asserts.

    The Theatre Company's world premiere of Benediction is a powerful drama made up of three interwoven family stories set on the High Plains of Eastern Colorado. Video by John Moore. Run time: 2 minutes, 10 seconds.

    Benediction: Ticket information
    Performances run through March 1
    Space Theatre
    Performances daily except Mondays
    Call 303-893-4100, or go to the Denver Center’s web site at www.DenverCenter.Org

    More Benediction videos:
    Meet Joyce Cohen
    Meet Mike Hartman
    Meet Nance Williamson
    Meet Leslie O'Carroll
    Meet Adrian Egolf
    Meet James Newcomb

    Previous 2014-15 "Meet the Cast" episodes:

    Leslie Alexander, A Christmas Carol
    Allen Dorsey, A Christmas Carol
    Donna English, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Charlie Franklin, Lord of the Flies

    Patty Goble,The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Sam Gregory, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Matthew Gumley, Lord of the Flies
    Lenne Klingaman, Appoggiatura
    Darrie Lawrence
    , Appoggiatura
    Eddie Lopez, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

    Beth Malone, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Nick Mills Appoggiatura
    Paolo Montalban, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Burke Moses, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Linda Mugleston, The Unsinkable Molly Brown
    Rob Nagle, Appoggiatura
    Leslie O'Carroll,A Christmas Carol
    Ben and Noah Radcliffe, Lord of the Flies
    James Michael Reilly, A Christmas Carol
    Socorro Santiago, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Lesley Shires, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
    Gregory Isaac Stone, Lord of the Flies

      Amelia Marie Corrado. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.
      Amelia Marie Corrado as bad girl Genevieve Larson in 'Benediction.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. 
    • Part 6: Matthew Lopez's 2015 Summit Soliloquy video

      by John Moore | Feb 18, 2015


      "Summit Soliloquies" is a video series leading up to the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit where playwrights from past and present Summits talk about writing, the Denver Center, the Summit and more. Here, DCPA Playwriting Fellow Matthew Lopez ("The Legend of Georgia McBride") talks about the Denver Center's new-play program. The 2015 Colorado New Play Summit is Feb. 20-21. Video by John Moore and David Lenk.

      TEXT OF MATTHEW LOPEZ'S COMMENTS:


      "The reason  the Colorado New Play Summit is so important, and so unique, is for the sheer fact that it focuses almost all of its attention on the writer, and the writer's process.

      Writing new plays is incredibly difficult, and it feels very lonely at times, and it's nice to know that there are people who spend not just these two weeks of the Summit, but the entire year planning the Summit really thinking very, very carefully and very passionately about writers and their work.

      It's nice to know that there are people out there who care. And then to get invited here to participate is a dream come true. It's a lot of fun. And you get a lot of work done." 



      Check out our photo gallery covering parts of Matthew Lopez's Playwriting Fellowship in Denver, above.

      MATTHEW LOPEZ IN DENVER: THE  SERIES TO DATE:
      Part 1: Why take the Playwriting Fellowship? The hunger for new work
      Part 2: Lopez to students: Be citizens. Be informed. Have opinions.
      Part 3: Is sweetness a risk in the American Theatre?
      Part 4: Peter Pan Live made Matthew Lopez cry - and fly
      Part 5: Matthew Lopez on the changing role of marketing in making art
      Part 6: Matthew Lopez's 2015 Summit Soliloquy video (today)
      Next: Matthew Lopez leads acting, playwriting workshops at  2015 Summit (coming next)

      AMERICAN THEATRE WRITES ABOUT THE MATTHEW LOPEZ FELLOWSHIP:
      Paying Playwrights More Than Play Money

      SELECTED PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF MATTHEW LOPEZ AT THE DCPA:
      Matthew Lopez named DCPA Playwriting Fellow for 2014-15
      Georgia McBride will be staged in New York
      Matthew Lopez's trip down the straight and fabulous
      2015 Colorado New Play Summit expands to two weekends
      Georgia McBride team: 'Subtlety is our enemy'

      OUR PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE 2015 COLORADO NEW PLAY SUMMIT:
      Photos: Week 1 of the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit
      Colorado New Play Summit expands to two weekends; playwrights announced
      Primer: Your guide to the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit
      Summit cast lists: Familiar names and new names
      Playwrights named for inaugural Local Playwrights Slam
      2015 Summit to introduce inaugural Local Playwrights Slam

      Matthew Lopez. Photo by John Moore.

      Matthew Lopez. Photo by John Moore.
    • Photos: Week 1 of the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit

      by John Moore | Feb 15, 2015




      Our comprehensive photo gallery spans the first-day meet-and-greet, rehearsals for all four shows, the first-ever Local Playwrights Slam, and both acting and playwriting workshops conducted by DCPA Playwriting Fellow Matthew Lopez.

      Check back next week for more photos and video from each of the readings, and a full recap of Summit activities. All photos by John Moore and Kyle Malone.

      Local Playwrights Slam at the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore.

      Nina Miller, Leslie C. Lewis and Jeffrey Neuman, curators of the first Local Playwrights Slam at the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore.



      Previous NewsCenter coverage of the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit:
      Colorado New Play Summit expands to two weekends; playwrights announced
      Primer: Your guide to the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit
      Summit cast lists: Familiar names and new names
      Playwrights named for inaugural Local Playwrights Slam
      2015 Summit to introduce inaugural Local Playwrights Slam


    • Part 5: Matthew Lopez on the evolving role of marketing in making art

      by John Moore | Feb 15, 2015

      Playwriting Fellow Matthew Lopez at the DCPA. Photo by John Moore.

      NOTE: This is Part 5 of an ongoing series of conversations with 2014-15 DCPA Playwriting Fellow Matthew Lopez, above. Photo by John Moore.




      One of the reasons Matthew Lopez accepted an offer to become the DCPA Theatre Company’s first-ever Playwriting Fellow this season was because the experience promised to pull back the veil on parts of the theatre-making process writers are rarely privy to.

      “The fellowship came at a time when I found myself growing increasingly frustrated with the opacity of the way theatres around the country make decisions,” said Lopez.

      Lopez’s six-month fellowship promised a front-row seat to everything from season-selection meetings to budget sessions. He is serving as the DCPA’s host for the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit. He is teaching playwriting and acting workshops. He has visited Denver-area schools. He is essentially a full member of the artistic staff.

      “When does a playwright ever get to do all that?” Lopez said. “It’s like being offered a backstage tour of the inner workings of a company.”

      He got the backstage tour, too.

      One of the most illuminating parts of Lopez’s tour has been developing a greater understanding of the role marketing plays in everything from the way a playwright’s work is introduced to the public, to the playwright’s financial bottom line. Simply put: The better the marketing, the more seats are sold - and the more the playwright gets paid, Lopez said. 

      The bottom line for anyone with a hand in creating a play, Lopez says, is this: “No one wants to put all of this work into it, and then not have anyone show up.”

      Here is more from our conversation:

      John Moore: What has surprised you the most about delving into the world of marketing here?

      Matthew Lopez: The science of it; the professionalism of it; the industry of it. That was pretty eye-opening. But what was even more enlightening and refreshing to me is how it always seems to come back to the creative process, and to the art. When everything is done well, it really is the perfect meeting of art and commerce - at least that is how I have experienced it here at the DCPA.

      John Moore: What is it like for a playwright to talk with staff about your play in terms of ticket sales and revenue goals and percentages of capacity?

      Matthew Lopez: There are hard numbers being discussed in those meetings. There are literally percentage points being bandied about. But then there is also a keen eye toward "the why.” Why is a play selling or not selling? With A Christmas Carol, you know it’s selling because of the name recognition. Because of the tradition. Because people have seen this production before, and they know it will be of high quality. But people are also asking, “Why was Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike‎ such a big hit for the company?" And even though Lord of the Flies maybe didn’t sell quite as many tickets, why is that the play that everyone was talking about for weeks afterward? It's fascinating.

      John Moore: Especially given that Lord of the Flies performed so many student matinees - and every ticket was sold. And those students treated the cast like they were boy-band rock stars. But for whatever reason, it didn't appeal to an adult audience in the same way at night.

      Matthew Lopez: And why is that? What amazes me is that marketing departments now have ways of finding out. I had no idea the business end of it has become so sophisticated and scientific. It's pretty impressive. But again - the road always led back to the art and to the creation, and that was pretty exciting to me.

      Matthew Lopez


      John Moore: How do you compare the particular challenge of marketing live theatre to, say, films?

      Matthew Lopez: The difference between selling live theatre and film is that the owners of the movie theatres could care less about the number of butts in their seats, because they get to keep such a tiny fraction of the box office. They get practically nothing from ticket sales. All of the action that they make at a movie theatre is off of concessions. So there is zero connection between the number of tickets sold, and the audience’s intellectual and emotional interaction with the film. Seriously: They could not care less what you thought of The Imitation Game or Unbroken or The Hobbit. They just don't care. They want you to buy popcorn. But here at the Denver Center, there is a direct correlation between butts in the seats and the audience’s engagement with the theatre that is being created. Everything depends on it. This might be a crass way of looking at it, but for a playwright, the more attention the marketing department can generate for your play, the more tickets are sold, which means the playwright makes more money. I can't speak for the actors, because they don't get paid based on how many tickets are sold. I get paid based on how many tickets are sold.

      John Moore: I thought licensing fees were based on the seating capacity of the theatre, not on how many people actually show up.

      Matthew Lopez. There is a formula that determines what you get paid in advance. But later on, you also get a pre-negotiated percentage of the box office. So the size of the house, and the number of tickets sold, does factor into it. If you are the playwright, you are going to make more money in a 1,200-seat theatre than you will in a 150-seat theatre. You are going to make more money if they charge $100 for the ticket as opposed to $27 for the ticket. The actors are paid a fixed rate based on the size of the house, and they get paid the same whether the house is full or empty. And so for me, the work that the marketing department does directly impacts my bottom line.

      John Moore: The way I see it, really every part of the process can, in some way, be considered marketing. Advertising is marketing, obviously. But really anything that convinces a potential audience member to come and see a show is marketing. That might be a story in the Sunday newspaper. A banner they see driving down the street. An email with a discount offer. An audience testimonial on social media. Even the script – and the performances. Because if an audience thinks The Legend of Georgia McBride is the best new play they have seen in a long time – and they tell people about it, that's organic marketing. Or if they see Mark Rylance perform in Jerusalem, and they tell their friends they have to see it – that's all part of the wide swath that is marketing now.

      Matthew Lopez: Absolutely.

      John Moore: What do you think of the emerging role of curation in enhancing and extending the audience’s theatergoing experience? For Georgia McBride, there was a cooperative effort between the marketing and artistic teams so that the audience experience began from the moment they walked through the front door and continued long after the show with a local drag performance. 

      Matthew Lopez: That was fun, wasn’t it? What I took from that is the idea that marketing doesn't have to be unimaginative. Marketing can actually be a part of the creative experience. I think the more imaginative the marketing department is, the more engrained they are in the production itself. Georgia McBride was a perfect example of that. The less marketing looks like marketing, the better. "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain," right? You are not supposed to notice.

      John Moore: So this is new to everyone, right? But I can only assume that deep down, the playwright wishes the play could speak for itself.

      Matthew Lopez: At first, that was probably my attitude. I kind of felt like, “I got this, guys. This is what I do. Why don't we just let them see the show?” But I think that was a little bit of contempt prior to investigation. Once I saw what they were thinking about for Georgia McBride, and once I actually saw what kind of resources they were able to put into it, and the imagination they put behind the idea, I think we all kind of dug it. Not too soon after we started performances, most nights you would see half the cast watching the drag show in the lobby after the show.

      Note: Matthew Lopez is conducting a playwriting workshop and discussion as part of the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit at 5 p.m. today, Feb. 15, at the Jones Theatre, Speer and Arapahoe.



      Check out our photo gallery covering parts of Matthew Lopez's Playwriting Fellowship in Denver, above.

      MATTHEW LOPEZ IN DENVER: THE  SERIES TO DATE:
      Part 1: Why take the Playwriting Fellowship? The hunger for new work
      Part 2: Lopez to students: Be citizens. Be informed. Have opinions.
      Part 3: Is sweetness a risk in the American Theatre?
      Part 4: Peter Pan Live made Matthew Lopez cry - and fly
      Part 5: Matthew Lopez on the changing role of marketing in making art (today)
      Part 6: Matthew Lopez leads acting, playwriting workshops at  2015 Summit (coming next)

      AMERICAN THEATRE WRITES ABOUT THE MATTHEW LOPEZ FELLOWSHIP:
      Paying Playwrights More Than Play Money

      SELECTED PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF MATTHEW LOPEZ AT THE DCPA:
      Matthew Lopez named DCPA Playwriting Fellow for 2014-15
      Georgia McBride will be staged in New York
      Matthew Lopez's trip down the straight and fabulous
      2015 Colorado New Play Summit expands to two weekends
      Georgia McBride team: 'Subtlety is our enemy'

      PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE 2015 COLORADO NEW PLAY SUMMIT:
    • 'Georgia McBride' will be staged in New York

      by John Moore | Feb 10, 2015


      GeorgiaMcBride-MCCHomepage-v01


      The DCPA Theatre Company’s world premiere comedy The Legend of Georgia McBride will have its off-Broadway debut Aug. 20 and run through Oct. 4 at the MCC Theater in downtown New York.
       
      The play, written by 2014-15 DCPA Playwriting Fellow Matthew Lopez, charmed Denver audiences last year with its sweet story of a straight Elvis impersonator named Casey who delves into the world of drag to help support his growing family – and finds that he very much likes it.
       
      Matt McGrath in 'The Legend of Georgia McBride.' Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen. “It’s really exciting,” Lopez told the DCPA’s NewsCenter.

      Essential lessons learned from the play’s development process in Denver, he added, have resulted in substantial improvements to the script. Notably: The cast will be expanded from four actors to five. The actress who plays Casey’s pregnant wife, Jo, will no longer also play Eddie - the fat, mustachioed man who owns the drag club. “It worked as a sight gag, but it doesn’t work in creating a real human being,” Lopez concluded.
       
      (Photo: Matt McGrath will return to his role as Tracey in 'The Legend of Georgia McBride' when it opens next month in New York. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen.)


      Matthew_Lopez_CircleAnother big change: Less drag … and more play. “I have learned to let the play do the work, and not rely on the drag numbers do the work,” Lopez said. “So now there are fewer drag numbers. But when they do come, they are really special.”
       
      Sometimes development is valuable because it allows you to try changes, and then change things back if they don't work. For example, Lopez (pictured right) conceived Georgia McBride as a 90-minute play, but just days before it opened in Denver last January, the creative team determined an intermission would be helpful, and inserted one. After the Denver run ended then, Lopez was able to approach the story anew. He made some important changes but came to the conclusion that the original 90-minute structure was best.

      “I think perhaps some obstacles were overcome a bit too easily," Lopez said of the Denver production. The journey is now going to be harder for Casey. Perhaps there isn’t such instant understanding from his wife, and the relationship will be a little more imperiled. He has to really fight harder now.”

      None of these epiphanies could have happened without the play’s essential development time in Denver, Lopez said, which also yielded the happiest and most valuable of lessons: “We learned on both a technical and an artistic level that the play is actually technically feasible,” Lopez said. "That is huge. And just on an emotional level, we learned that the play really works with an audience.”
       
      The New York director will again be Mike Donahue. The cast will include Matt McGrath, back to play the role of Tracey. The rest are new: Dave Thomas Brown as Casey, Wayne Duvall as Eddie, Keith Nobbs as Rexy and Jason, and Afton C. Williamson as Jo.

      Bob Lupone, co-Artistic Director of New York’s MCC Theatre, saw the play in Denver, and he was fascinated by the juxtaposition of drag performance, music and storytelling in what he called the DCPA’s “wonderfully realized” production. He called Lopez a “touching, entertaining” playwright.

      “After the affirmation from the Denver audience, I am very much looking forward to our Off-Broadway production,” Lupone said.
       
      OUR GEORGIA McBRIDE DENVER PHOTO GALLERY:


      The Denver cast featured Ben Huber, Matt McGrath, Nick Mills and Jamie Ann Romero. Photos by Jennifer M. Koskinen.

      SELECTED NEWSCENTER COVERAGE OF GEORGIA McBRIDE:
      Photos: Opening night of The Legend of Georgia McBride
      Chairman and CEO Daniel Ritchie's drag transformation
      Matthew Lopez's trip down the straight and fabulous
      10 Ways Georgia McBride is going to blow your theatregoing mind​
      Matthew Lopez named DCPA Playwriting Fellow for 2014-15
      'Georgia McBride' team: 'Subtlety is our enemy'
      Video: It's Waxing Day for Georgia McBride actors. Yelp!​

      2015 Colorado New Play Summit expands to two weekends

       
    • 'Peter Pan' made Matthew Lopez cry - and fly - like a baby

      by John Moore | Jan 21, 2015

      Matthew Lopez. Photo by John Moore.

      As a television viewer, DCPA Playwriting Fellow Matthew Lopez said, 'Peter Pan Live!' 'did the thing that it was meant to do.' Photo by John Moore.




      Reaction to NBC’s nationally televised presentation of Peter Pan Live! last month was mixed, but Matthew Lopez’s response was unequivocal.

      “I loved it. I was completely charmed. And I was crying like a baby,” said Lopez, the DCPA Theatre Company’s first Playwriting Fellow for the 2014-15 season. “I thought it was fantastic.”

      That’s pretty impressive from one of the nation’s hottest young playwrights - a guy whose gritty, groundbreaking first play opens with a Confederate soldier having his gangrenous leg cut off in the opening scene of The Whipping Man.

      Or is that just Matthew?

      “Oh, I am a crier,” said Lopez, who also wrote the DCPA’s world premiere charmer The Legend of Georgia McBride. “I am not going to lie: I love to cry.”

      Peter Pan holds a special place in Lopez’s second star to the right, dating back to when he was a 5-year-old kid from the Florida Panhandle. While visiting New York, his family took him to Peter Pan. It was his first play. And it was on Broadway.

      “When I saw Sandy Duncan fly over the audience in the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, I fell madly in love with theatre,” Lopez said. “From that moment on, I knew theatre was the only thing I could possibly do with my life. I did not want to become a lawyer. I did not want to become an accountant. I did not want to become anything other than someone who works in theatre.”

      His first job in the biz? Playing Michael Darling in a school production of Peter Pan.

      Fast-forward, and you can just imagine how Lopez felt when he heard NBC would be staging a three-hour live presentation of Peter Pan on Dec. 5 starring Allison Williams and Christopher Walken … and a whole bunch of kids from Newsies.

      Lopez had to record the broadcast for un-live viewing because of another commitment. He got home late, cued it up, and soon he was laughing, cheering … and bawling.

      “I think a lot of this has to do with my own personal experiences with the show, but it was just so magical," he said. "Just hearing that score again was so exciting for me. And that little kid who played Michael Darling (John Allyn) was so adorable. When he started to fly, I started laughing so loud that I woke up my fiancé. He came out from the bedroom and he was like, ‘What the hell are you watching?’

      "I just pointed at the television and said, ‘Look! It's Peter Pan Live!’ And then I re-wound it, and he was charmed by it, too."

      The waterworks really began during Distant Melody. “I was a basket case just crying on the sofa,” he said. “I was remembering my childhood. And remembering the impact that song had on me. Whenever that songs starts to play, I cannot help it. I think we all have that thing that triggers our most wonderful, Proustian memories. Peter Pan is definitely my Madeline.”

      Lopez thinks watching live theatre on a television is inherently artificial because it’s typically performed in a theatre. “The direction is set up to accommodate camera angles,” he said of the Peter Pan Live! broadcast. “The set is designed to move around the guy who is holding the SteadyCam on his chest.”

      That said ... Who cares?

      “It was just so delightful for me to see really talented people tackle this beautiful chestnut of a show at the holidays," he said. "I have known and loved that show all my life."

      Matthew Lopez Quote

      For someone who knows the show so well, it’s telling that Lopez didn’t take much notice to wholesale changes in the score.

      Peter Pan Live! producers enlisted Amanda Green —  daughter of original lyricist Adolph Green — to expand and adapt the score using only carefully chosen material from the songbooks of original writers Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green.  The new songs included Captain Hook’s “Vengeance” (adapted from a song in the musical Do Re Mi); Wendy’s “Only Pretend” (also adapted from the Do Re Mi score); and “A Wonderful World Without Peter,” a duel song between Hook and Peter adapted from “Something’s Always Happening On The River” from Say Darling. And the racially insensitive song “Ugg-a-Wugg” was softened.

      “You know what?" Lopez said. "It didn't even stick out to me that the music had been changed. It just all worked as a piece for me. And I can tell you, I sent the DVD to my nieces and nephews for Christmas. I bought two copies on Amazon.com that same night. And I was listening to the music on my iPhone a couple of days later.”

      We asked Lopez his thoughts on some of the more widely discussed talking points coming out of the broadcast, including:

      John Moore: Should NBC maybe have done this in front of a live television audience?

      Matthew Lopez: I was wondering the same thing. The thing that is missing with television is the direct relationship between the performers and the audience, and I think that would have helped. I saw Peter Pan in Los Angeles just two years ago, and when Cathy Rigby flew in, the entire audience just erupted into cheers. For me, the whole reason the show exists is that moment when the Darling children start to fly. They think lovely thoughts and candy, candy, candy. And then they are told to think lovelier thoughts, and Michael thinks of Christmas and he goes zooming up into the air. For me? It doesn't get any better than that. You can take your chandelier falling any day. Keep it. I want that little kid zooming up into the air when he thinks of Christmas. But you do lose something when it's on television because they are doing it for you. The missing ingredient is the audience.

      John Moore: So what did you think when you got to the moment when Peter asks the audience to Clap to save Tinkerbell’s life -- and they flashed the Twitter hashtag #SaveTinkerbell?

      Matthew Lopez: Did they? I didn't notice. I was too busy clapping. I can't have Tinkerbell's death on my conscience. I was clapping like mad.


      Allison Williams in 'Peter Pan Live' John Moore: I kind of liked that you could see the wires. That's what Julie Taymor is all about: Let them see the magic. Don't hide from it. But others disagreed.

      Matthew Lopez: I agree that you have to see the wires. That was the whole point. 

      John Moore: I mentioned in an earlier story that Broadway set an all-time record last year with a combined annual audience of 12.2 million last year. Peter Pan Live! was seen by 9.4 million people on one night. I can only imagine how many kids are going to grow up and talk about that night in 2014 when they saw Peter Pan Live! on TV.

      Matthew Lopez: Yes, and let's not forget: They were doing live musicals on television long before you or I were born. The only time you were ever going to see Julie Andrews in Camelot was when she appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. 

      John Moore: NBC is committed to continuing the tradition. What would you like to see them take on next?

      Matthew Lopez: Somewhere!

      John Moore: There you go. I should tell people here that Somewhere is your play that opened last February at the Hartford Stage. That’s the story of a Puerto Rican family with show-business dreams that are threatened by displacement from their home to make room for the building of the Lincoln Center in 1959 New York. What else?

      Matthew Lopez: The Legend of Georgia McBride. ... The Whipping Man Live! For Christmas!

      John Moore: Awesome.

      Matthew Lopez: That amputation scene would be great!

      John Moore: It’s been reported that NBC is considering The Music Man. Variety says NBC will also mount a live telecast of Aaron Sorkin’s military courtroom drama A Few Good Men. And Fox is about to give Grease the live treatment.

      Matthew Lopez: Spring Awakening would be pretty darn cool. And A Chorus Line would be great, although you probably couldn't get away with that on network television.

      John Moore: So, overall, you seem pretty pleased.

      Matthew Lopez: I think it did the thing that it was meant to do, at least in my house: It moved me. And it transported me. And it made me laugh. And it made me cry. It reminded me of being a kid. And that is a pretty rare thing.



      Check out our complete photo gallery covering Matthew Lopez's Playwriting Fellowship in Denver, above.

      MATTHEW LOPEZ IN DENVER: THE  SERIES TO DATE:
      Part 1: Why take the Playwriting Fellowship? The hunger for new work
      Part 2: Lopez to students: Be citizens. Be informed. Have opinions.
      Part 3: Is sweetness a risk in the American Theatre?
      Part 4: Peter Pan made Matthew Lopez cry - and fly - like a baby (today)

      AMERICAN THEATRE WRITES ABOUT THE MATTHEW LOPEZ FELLOWSHIP:
      Paying Playwrights More Than Play Money

      SELECTED PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF MATTHEW LOPEZ AT THE DCPA:
      Matthew Lopez named DCPA Playwriting Fellow for 2014-15
      Matthew Lopez's trip down the straight and fabulous
      2015 Colorado New Play Summit expands to two weekends
      'Georgia McBride' team: 'Subtlety is our enemy'
    • 2015 Summit to introduce inaugural Local Playwrights Slam

      by John Moore | Jan 09, 2015
      Rough Draft Playwrights at the 2014 Colorado New Play Summit.
      A group of Rough Draught Playwrights at the 2014 Colorado New Play Summit.


      Rough Draft PlaywrightsA group of Colorado writers known as the Rough Draught Playwrights will curate the inaugural Local Playwrights’ Slam during the opening weekend of the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit, the DCPA Theatre Company announced today.

      The Slam has been a popular feature for all 10 years of the Colorado New Play Summit.  It's sort of like a poetry reading for playwrights. In years past, the four or five playwights whose works are being featured in that year's summit have been invited to read scenes from different manuscripts they are working on in a friendly and encouraging environment.

      Because this year's Colorado  New Play Summit is expanding to two weekends, there is now the opportunity to have one Slam on the Saturday of the "public" weekend, and another on the "industry" weekend.

      The Rough Draught Playwrights' Slam will take place in The Jones Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 14. It is free with the purchase of any $10 Summit reading ticket.

      Rough Draught promotes writer development and dramaturgy by connecting Colorado playwrights with peers, actors, directors, producers and theater enthusiasts through informal readings of their scripts. Rough Draught, headed by playwrights Leslie C. Lewis, Nina Alice Miller and Jeffrey Neuman, hosts the quarterly Open Mic Theatrical Playground, where writers have the opportunity to hear their works-in-progress read before a live audience.

      “We are thrilled that the expansion of this year’s Summit will provide local playwrights with additional outlets to showcase their work,” said DCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson. “The expanded weekends also provide Colorado artists and audiences with the unprecedented opportunity to learn from both Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Vogel, the most respected playwriting teacher in the nation; and Denver favorite Matthew Lopez, undeniably one of the fastest rising playwrights in the country.”

      RDPquote

      The local weekend of the Summit will feature two workshops by 2014-15 DCPA  Playwriting Fellow Matthew Lopez (The Legend of Georgia McBride, The Whipping Man). Lopez will lead an acting master class on Saturday, Feb. 14. This workshop will use scenes from four of Matthew’s own plays and allow writers, actors and audiences alike to discover the relationship between a playwright, his text and actors’ interpretations.

      On Sunday, Feb. 15, Lopez will workshop new scenes with three Colorado playwrights. This session will provide a behind-the-scenes look into the playwriting and development process, including a Q&A session with the audience.

      During the Summit’s Industry weekend,  Paula Vogel (How I Learned To Drive), will lead two playwriting boot camps for all types and abilities.

      “This expansion further cements the Theatre Company’s commitment to Colorado storytelling,” Thompson said. “This season alone audiences have journeyed to Leadville in The Unsinkable Molly Brown and to the fictional town of Holt, Colorado, in Benediction.”

      About the Colorado New Play Summit

      The Colorado New Play Summit is a premiere showcase and celebration of new plays. The 2015 festival will take place over two weekends, Feb. 14-15 and 21-22, and will feature new plays by Jason Gray Platt, Theresa Rebeck, Tanya Saracho, and Catherine Trieschmann.

      Over the past decade, the Summit has introduced 44 new plays, more than half of which returned to the stage as full Theatre Company productions. Recent Summit favorites include Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale, Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride, Catherine Trieschmann’s The Most Deserving, Marcus Gardley’s black odyssey, Karen Zacarias’s Just Like Us, Jeffrey Haddow and Neal Hampton’s Sense and Sensibility The Musical, and Dick Scanlan’s The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

      Information and tickets

      For information and tickets to the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit, click here.
    • Matthew Lopez, Part 3: Is sweetness a risky trend in the American theatre?

      by John Moore | Jan 06, 2015

      Matthew_Lopez_Fellowship_Part_3_800_2

      "There does seem to be something that the DCPA is going for in terms of what it believes are the stories that its audiences want to see right now,” Theatre Company Playwriting Fellow Matthew Lopez says. And maybe what they want to see right now is families not tearing each other up all of the time. Photos by John Moore.


      The American theatre is in love with hate.

      OK, so that’s hardly a new development - or even a remotely American theatrical trait. From Medea butchering her kids for spite, to mad man MacBeth’s bloody murder spree, to those gloriously soused bickerers from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, to Martin McDonagh’s hilarious Irish cat-implosions … the history of world drama has been fueled for centuries by shocking tales that never run out of new ways to show us how we can hurt those we ostensibly love.

      When it comes to tone in the live theatre, straight plays and traditional American musicals have peaceably co-existed – in opposite galaxies. While composers want to leave you tapping your toes, playwrights tend to go for your jugular.

      The past 40 years in American playwriting has been a particularly cynical and cruel period. Think Sam Shepard and his Buried Child. David Mamet and the blatant gender violence of Oleanna. Protégé Neal LaBute’s father casually looking on as his infant suffocates under a bed sheet. And now, of course, we have the new gold standard for family barbarism: Tracy Letts’ instant American classic, the gleefully vicious August: Osage County.

      The most celebrated playwrights in the contemporary American theatre at the moment are best known for their savagery. Consider Stephen Adly Guirgis, who writes proudly profane stories of inner-city violence (including a notable one about a Catholic nun who drinks herself to death). He just won the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award and a cash prize of $200,000 to go with it.

      But there seems to be a changing emotional tide on the theatre horizon. And one need look no further than Broadway - or the Denver Center for the Performing Arts - for evidence of what seems to be a wholly organic, emerging trend away from domestic stage cruelty. 

      Matthew_Lopez_Fellowship_Part_3_Quote_2

      Last year’s five Tony-nominated plays included three unapologetically sweet stories: Casa Valentina (Harvey Fierstein’s borscht-belt comedy about heterosexual cross-dressers in 1962); Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons (about the changing definition of the American family); and Outside Mullingar (an unexpected Irish romance from John Patrick Shanley). The fourth – Act One – adapts a backstage memoir by Moss Hart; and All the Way (by Robert Schenkken, author of the DCPA-bound apostolic musical The 12) is a historical look at the LBJ presidency. Nothing you could call remotely barbarous.

      Playwright Matthew Lopez, who is spending part of his year serving as the DCPA Theatre Company’s first-ever Playwriting Fellow, also points to rising playwright Annie Baker, whose Circle Mirror Transformation, The Flick and The Aliens have been described as heart-rending, gentle and extraordinarily beautiful.

      And here in Denver, the DCPA Theatre Company seems to be in a stretch of plays that bucks the mean trend -- the recent children’s classic Lord of the Flies notwithstanding.

      “There does seem to be something that the DCPA Theatre Company is going for in terms of what it believes are the stories that its audiences want to see right now,” Lopez said.

      And maybe what they want to see is families working through things together once in a while.

      Last season’s The Legend of Georgia McBride (written by Lopez) and Shadowlands, along with the upcoming world premieres of Appoggiatura and Benediction, might seem to have little in common – save for the biggest thing of all: Their big, beating, searching, thoughtful hearts. It’s not that these stories are without conflict - that's the lifeblood of all drama. Appoggiatura pairs two mourners who dearly loved the same man. Benediction traces the final days of a father who has done irreconcilable damage to his relationship with his son.

      “There is certainly rancor in those plays. There is disappointment. There is bitterness. There is sublimated mourning,” said Lopez.

      They just aren’t carnal about it. They are warm and vulnerable indications of the changing American family. Which makes them not the kinds of plays that have been in vogue for the past two score with theatre producers from Denver to New York.

      So, does it take a particular kind of courage right now to write sweetness into a new American play?

      “That’s a hard needle to thread,” Lopez said, "because the answer is both yes and no. It depends on who you are as a writer. It depends on what theatre is. It depends on the happy accident of those two things meeting each other.”

      Matthew_Lopez_Fellowship_Part_3_400But three-time Pulitzer nominee James Still, who wrote Appoggiatura, believes he has gone out on a limb with the play – and the DCPA Theatre Company has joined him on it.

      “I think it takes enormous courage right now to approach a new play with that kind of deeply sweet quality," said Still, “because sweetness is risky.”

      Still was speaking specifically about Appoggiatura – the time-bending tale of a family that travels to the romantic city of Venice to heal their wounds. But he also could have been talking about Georgia McBride, which had its world premiere at the DCPA’s Ricketson Theatre a year ago. That’s a gentle comedy about a young father who enters the world of drag to support his growing family – and comes to find that he loves it. It is a testament to acceptance and theatrical fabulousness.

      But as a world premiere, and because of its subject matter, Georgia McBride was a risk for the host DCPA Theatre Company. No one could have known how audiences would take to Lopez’s world of drag in the Florida panhandle. It turns out, they took to it so well that almost every seat for the entire run was sold.

      “I know that I love a good, sweet story. I love kindness and hope in the theatre,” Lopez said. “But of course that has never ultimately driven the live theatre. We have eye-gougings and murders and incest and all kinds of awful things happening to us. I mean, when you think about the greatest American plays -- they are probably all downers, right?”

      Double-downers. In 2010, The Denver Post surveyed a national swath of theatre insiders and audiences to determine the 10 most important American plays. The Top 5: Death of a Salesman (failure and suicide); Angels in America (the AIDS epidemic), A Streetcar Named Desire (booze, delusion and brutality), A Long Day’s Journey Into Night (drug abuse in a disintegrating family) and Virginia Woolf (wedded un-bliss).

      “I mean … that’s pretty grim,” Lopez said with a laugh.

      Matthew_Lopez_Fellowship_Part_3_Quote

      Lopez said his experience in bringing Georgia McBride to life in Denver “was entirely positive.” But he then went straight to the Hartford Stage to open his latest new play,  called Somewhere. It’s the undeniably hopeful story of a family of dancers and dreamers who triumph in the face of unrelenting poverty, dislocation and economic powerlessness. Audiences loved it. Reviews were rapturous. The Los Angeles Times called it “ebullient and charming.”

      “It was by any metric a success, whether that metric be commercial, artistic, critical or audience-based,” said Lopez. “… And I just can't get it to New York.” 

      So if Lopez can't get Somewhere to somewhere like New York, how does a nice play ever get produced?

      “I don't know what the recipe is,” Lopez said. “I think it is really a strange alchemy that does not have a formula.”

      At the end of the day, he added, “I think it takes guts to write a play, period. It takes guts to tackle the really big issues, and to attack them with gusto.  

      “And so I think playwright’s obligation is to write the stories that you are meant to write. You tell the stories that must be told, because they are just going to burst out of you if you don't.”

      As an audience member, Lopez has a simple metric, and it is not whether the story is happy or sad; sweet or crude. “I just want to be told a good story,” he said. “At the end of the play, I want to know that something has happened. I want to have had a unique theatrical experience. I want to leave having felt something that I previously had not encountered.”

      So Lopez ultimately believes that it is insufficient to just assume that audiences are necessarily craving sweet stories at the moment.

      “I think audiences crave good stories,” he said.


      Matthew_Lopez_Part_3_800_1



      Check out our complete photo gallery covering Matthew Lopez's Playwriting Fellowship in Denver, above.

      MATTHEW LOPEZ IN DENVER: THE  SERIES TO DATE:
      Part 1: Why take the Playwriting Fellowship? The hunger for new work
      Part 2: Lopez to students: Be citizens. Be informed. Have opinions.
      Part 3: Is sweetness a risk in the American Theatre? (today)
      Part 4: Lopez's role in the 2014 Colorado New Play Summit

      AMERICAN THEATRE WRITES ABOUT THE MATTHEW LOPEZ FELLOWSHIP:
      Paying Playwrights More Than Play Money

      SELECTED PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF MATTHEW LOPEZ AT THE DCPA:
      Matthew Lopez named DCPA Playwriting Fellow for 2014-15
      Matthew Lopez's trip down the straight and fabulous
      2015 Colorado New Play Summit expands to two weekends
      'Georgia McBride' team: 'Subtlety is our enemy'
    • Part 2: Matthew Lopez to students: Be citizens. Be informed. Have opinions.

      by John Moore | Dec 10, 2014

      Matthew_Lopez_800_lead_Quote

      To see our complete photo gallery covering Matthew Lopez's Playwriting Fellowship in Denver, click here


      When Matthew Lopez visited Denver School of the Arts students last month, he didn’t waste any time. He worked them.

      Lopez, the accomplished young playwright of both The Legend of Georgia McBride and The Whipping Man, is serving as the DCPA Theatre Company’s first-ever Playwriting Fellow. Lopez is making monthly visits to Denver throughout the season, and he wants connecting with area students to be a regular priority. 

      “One of the reasons it is important for me to work with students is because one day someone said to me, ‘You are good at what you do,’ ” Lopez said. “And I trusted them. Those encouragements are something you cling to when things are really hard.”

      Denver School of the Arts is a Denver Public Schools magnet school where students declare specific majors such as theatre, creative writing or visual arts, just as if they were in college. 

      Lopez’s visit caused a bit of a stir. His first stop was before a full class of acting students. And just as he was starting, he was asked if a nearby class could join in. Soon every chair and nearly every floor tile was covered in teenaged sponges.

      For those who didn’t already know Lopez, they soon learned why they should listen to him. Georgia McBride had its world premiere at the DCPA earlier this year, and The Whipping Man was one of the most produced plays in America (including Curious Theatre). He has two new plays debuting in 2015; he wrote for one season of HBO’s The Newsroom; and he is readying his first screenplay, for the company that produced the Oscar-winning Twelve Years a Slave

      Then the work began. Lopez invited a few brave acting students to read speeches from his upcoming plays, meaning the material would not only be cold to them – it would be tundra. They couldn’t know what they were signing up to read.

      Video showing Matthew Lopez at work with Denver School of the Arts students.


      One student played a dreamer imagining his Oscar acceptance speech for his work as an extra on the 1959 filming of West Side Story. Another had a woman trying to articulate her feelings to a potential new boyfriend. And with Lopez’s gentle assistance – no doubt shaped by having two teachers for parents and an aunt who has won a Tony Award – he elucidated how to inspect a playwright’s text for clues they can latch onto and help them figure out the writer’s intention.

      “What we are going to be paying attention to is the language,” Lopez said. "Our goal will be to look at the text and make it come alive.”

      When another student sped through a passage too quickly, Lopez encouraged her to try again. “Say that sentence again … and really understand it,” he said. 

      The student playing the imaginary Oscar winner embraced the sweet naiveté of a young man who thinks an extra might actually be considered for an Academy Award. Oh, and another thing – in his fantasy, he is married to Marilyn Monroe, and the father of her four children. The student took on the challenge of communicating all of that in a brief speech with comic gusto:

      “I didn’t really expect to win this. I mean, when you are up against Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, David Niven and Laurence Olivier, well … wow.”

      Lopez stopped him. “OK, here’s a tip: Never waste a ‘wow,’ If a playwright gives you the word ‘wow,’ he really wants you to say the word, WOW!”

      He tried again. He hit the “WOW.” His fellow students cheered for the difference.

      Lopez told them the scene was partially inspired by being the nephew of Priscilla Lopez, who created the role of Diana in the original Broadway production of A Chorus Line, and won the Tony Award in 1980 for her performance in A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine.

      “When I would visit her as a kid, I would take her Tony Award off the mantle and go into the bathroom and make imaginary acceptance speeches,” he said to knowing laughs.

      Matthew_Lopez_DSA_800_2
      Matthew Lopez addresses an overflow room of Denver School of the Arts students. Photo by John Moore. To see our complete photo gallery covering Matthew Lopez's Playwriting Fellowship in Denver, click here


      Lopez advised the young actors to jump in should they ever get the opportunity to work with a playwright on a developing play. It is a much different creative experience than being handed a published script that will not change. A developing play is different, he said, because you are a part of shaping the developing script.

      “Working with new plays is a whole different kind of electrical charge,” Lopez told them. “For me, that’s why I love working in theatre. Because you don't know what is going to happen next. A play like Fences, you already know. You can either get it right, or you can get it wrong. But it’s done. It’s not changing. But when you work on a new play, there are so many moving parts and variables, and every day the writer is constantly changing your words. It’s a different kind of acting challenge, and you should always take it.”

      The afternoon had Lopez visiting with a very different group of creative-writing majors. He told them to appreciate the blessing the Denver School of the Arts is in their lives.

      “My life is pretty great right now,” said Lopez, who grew up in the Florida panhandle. “But I may have saved a lot of money in therapy if I had a school like this growing up."


      Matthew_Lopez_DSA_800_3

      Photo by John Moore. To see our complete photo gallery covering Matthew Lopez's Playwriting Fellowship in Denver, click here

      MATTHEW LOPEZ’S TIPS FOR YOUNG ACTORS

      • "Hang glide on the language. Just let the language carry you through."
      • "Skip the pronouns. Pronouns are not your friends. They are the words you should gleefully skip to get to the good words."
      • "There are such things as small roles, actually."
      • On taking criticism: “You have to learn how to do it. And, equally important: You have to know who to accept it from. I need people to say to me, ‘This is not your best work - and here’s why.’ You have to accept the possibility that what you have written is not perfect, because that’s the only way it is going to get any better."
      • "What did Ernest Hemingway say? 'There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter … and bleed.' ”

      MATTHEW LOPEZ’S TIPS FOR YOUNG WRITERS

      • "Be citizens. Be informed. Have opinions. The only way to have opinions is to know things. Know who the Premier of Japan is. We don’t need writers to tell us how to feel. We need writers to look beyond and help us see new things. Knowing the world is going to help you figure out what you think about the world. And figuring out what you think about the world will help you figure out what you want to write about the world."
      • "There is no such thing as writer’s block. Writer’s block is just fear manifested. Writer’s block is an excuse to be lazy. Writer’s block is an excuse to be afraid. Writer’s block is an excuse to watch television. Being a writer means being willing to fight through all of that."
      • "Read at least five articles from The New York Times every day.
      • Read at least one novel a month.

      MATTHEW LOPEZ IN DENVER: THE  SERIES TO DATE:
      Part 1: Why take the Playwriting Fellowship? The hunger for new work
      Part 2: Matthew Lopez visits Denver School of the Arts (above)
      Part 3: Lopez' thoughts on the state of American playwriting (next)
      Part 4: Lopez's role in the 2014 Colorado New Play Summit

      AMERICAN THEATRE WRITES ABOUT THE MATTHEW LOPEZ FELLOWSHIP:
      Paying Playwrights More Than Play Money

      SELECTED PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF MATTHEW LOPEZ AT THE DCPA:
      Matthew Lopez named DCPA Playwriting Fellow for 2014-15
      Matthew Lopez's trip down the straight and fabulous
      2015 Colorado New Play Summit expands to two weekends
      'Georgia McBride' team: 'Subtlety is our enemy'

      Matthew_Lopez_DSA_800_4
      Matthew Lopez, left, with Denver School of the Arts teacher Brandon Becker. Photo by John Moore.


      Matthew_Lopez_DSA_800_5Matthew Lopez is approached by a student who says her life was changed by his play, "The Legend of Georgia McBride."

      To see our complete photo gallery covering Matthew Lopez's Playwriting Fellowship in Denver, click here


    • Matthew Lopez in Denver, Part 1: Why? The hunger for new work

      by John Moore | Nov 19, 2014

      Matthew_Lopez_Part1_800_1

      Says DCPA Theatre Company Playwriting Fellow Matthew Lopez: 'I think it's possible to get an audience to actually be OK with the potential for abject failure. Because they know there is also, then, the potential for great, exciting success.' Photo by John Moore


      Matthew Lopez is one of the busiest writers in America. That he is making time to serve as the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ first-ever Playwriting Fellow for the 2014-15 Theatre Company season, he says, is a testament to Denver's growing importance on the American theatre landscape.

      When Artistic Director Kent Thompson asked Lopez to accept this innovative appointment in August, Lopez said yes for one very straightforward reason: “The emphasis here on new-play development.”

      Lopez is the author of The Whipping Man, one of the most-produced plays in America last year, about a Jewish Confederate soldier who returns to his ruined estate just after the cessation of fighting in desperate need of medical help from his former slaves. Lopez is also the author of The Legend of Georgia McBride, a heartfelt comedy about a straight Elvis impersonator who delves into the world of drag performance out of his own brand of desperation – and finds that he likes it. He really likes it.

      Colorado audiences liked both plays as well. The Whipping Man, staged at the Curious Theatre, won nine Henry Awards from the Colorado Theatre Guild, including Outstanding Production. The DCPA’s Georgia McBride won two more, including Outstanding New Play.

      Denver, Lopez says, is a theatre community that appreciates new work. And nationally, he said, the DCPA is increasingly being seen as an industry  leader.

      “It’s everything,” Lopez said. “It's the Colorado New Play Summit. It's the fact that last season, four of the plays from the Summit, including my own, made it into the following season. There is an aggressive push here toward being seen as a premiere theatre for new works. Toward being seen as a playwright's theatre.”

      Still, Lopez is one committed man. At present, he has four active commissions. That means four different theatre companies are expecting him to produce a new play for their right of first refusal. He will have two new plays produced for the first time in 2015. There is also the possibility of an innovative collaboration.  He was a staff writer for one season on HBO's The Newsroom.

      Oh, and he’s also working on his first film: A little movie by the makers of 12 Years a Slave that would be produced by an up-and-comer named Brad Pitt. It’s an adaptation of a Spanish novel called Your Face Tomorrow.  

      “It’s about a Spaniard living in London," Lopez said. "He gets involved with a company he thinks is a consulting firm; but it turns out they are doing really bad things in the world."

      As is the case with many theatre, TV and film projects, writing something doesn’t necessarily mean it will get made. But Lopez is writing his first movie as if it will. And those are just a few reasons Lopez’s calendar would have probably preferred he had not also taken this six-month fellowship with the DCPA.

      But he accepted the appointment with relish.

      The fellowship calls for Lopez to spend one week per month in Denver serving as part of the Theatre Company’s artistic team. Lopez will bring the playwright’s voice into the production process for upcoming world premieres of Benediction and Appoggiatura. He will serve as the Playwright Host for the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit. And he will have input on the selection of the Theatre Company's  2015-16 mainstage season.

      Most important to Lopez: Every monthly visit to Denver will include a visit to area schools.

      Lopez also will be checking in each month with the DCPA NewsCenter for what will be a six-part series chronicling his visit to Denver. Each part of the series will tackle a different aspect of his fellowship.


      Matthew_Lopez_Quote_1



      Here are excerpts from our first interview with Matthew Lopez in Denver:

      Matthew_Lopez_Part1_300John Moore: When Kent Thompson first approached you with this fellowship idea, why was it intriguing to you?

      Matthew Lopez: It came at a time when I found myself growing increasingly frustrated with the opacity of the way theatres around the country make decisions. As a writer, you submit a play for consideration, and you generally get the ‘yay’ or the ‘nay’ – but you are not often privy to the decision-making process. It starts to feel like it's just so random and ad hoc that you forget that there probably actually is a process. So when Kent offered me this fellowship, part of what was interesting was just being part of the artistic staff for a while. That means sitting in on meetings and working on play selection, both for the Colorado New Play Summit and for next year's Theatre Company season. It also means sitting in on marketing meetings and a host of different things. When does a playwright ever get to do that? So that was all really intriguing for me. It’s like being offered a backstage tour of the inner workings of a company.

      John Moore: So is that how the fellowship is actually proceeding?

      Matthew Lopez: Yes, that’s exactly what I'm doing. The only thing I asked for was not to be given a commission to write a new play.

      John Moore: I think a lot of people would naturally expect that a commission would be a part of a fellowship like this.

      Matthew Lopez: Yes, but I have so many commissions right now that I would not be able to turn it around for years.

      John Moore: So how are you going to make this appointment work with your busy schedule?

      Matthew Lopez: Well, it is being scheduled within an inch of its life. Seriously. Before we agreed to definitely do this in August, we looked at what the DCPA's needs were for me; and we looked at what my needs for myself were. Then we looked at the calendar to see if it was in any way even feasible. And it turns out that it actually was. It was going to be a marathon for me, but I think it is worth it. I am really excited.

      Matthew_Lopez_Part1_800_2

      Jamie Ann Romero and Ben Huber in the DCPA Theatre Company's "The Legend of Georgia McBride" in February 2014. Photo by Jennifer M. Koskinen


      John Moore: Obviously you are high on the DCPA, especially after they staged The Legend of Georgia McBride last season.

      Matthew Lopez: Which means they have excellent taste.

      John Moore: Of course. So tell me what you see happening here at the DCPA that made this a company you wanted to do this with.

      Matthew Lopez: It’s the emphasis on new-play development. What’s happening here doesn't usually happen at "institutions" as large as the DCPA. Institutions often coast. Look, they also do Hamlet at the DCPA. They do Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. So they are not ignoring the mandates of a major regional theatre company. They do both.

      John Moore: But there is a lot of economic trepidation in the American theatre as a whole, which affects the ability of an institution to be consistent with its commitment to new work, including here at the DCPA.

      Matthew Lopez: Yes, and that just proves that it's hard. That is not a mystery to me. I think audiences are trainable -- and I mean that in the most respectful way. There will be growing pains. But over time, if you get an audience accustomed to new works, they are going to become hungry for it.

      John Moore: Another important factor is how you define new work. You mentioned Vanya. That may be the most-produced play in America this year, but it's still new to a Denver audience. So is the new The Unsinkable Molly Brown. This stage adaptation of Lord of the Flies. Appoggiatura. Benediction. One Night in Miami. The 12. I mean, other than A Christmas Carol, it's all new work by the DCPA Theatre Company this season.

      Matthew Lopez: Yes, it is all new work to the Denver audience. For theatregoers at Curious Theatre, The Whipping Man was a new play, for all intents and purposes. And yet if it were to be done in New York again, it would be considered a revival. Still, there is a difference between the Vanya example and having the playwright there, embedded in your company, continuing to develop a new piece. Having a real relationship with the people who are bringing your story to life for the first time. I mean, let’s be honest: Christopher Durang is not going to come to Denver to see this production of Vanya. But to me, there is something special about developing a relationship between an audience and an author in a specific town. For example: I don't have a relationship with New York City audiences. I've not been given the opportunity to have one. I have only had one production there. But I am beginning a real relationship with the Denver audience. My last visit to Denver, I walked through the plaza on my way to see Molly Brown, and one of the ushers said to me, 'Oh, you are that playwright!' That doesn't happen in New York. No one stops me in midtown Manhattan and says, 'Oh, you are that playwright!' By next year, Hartford Stage will have done three of my plays in five years. So I have a relationship with audiences in Denver and Hartford.

      John Moore: Hartford is presenting the world premiere of your play Reverberation in 2015.

      Matthew Lopez: Yes. Hartford audiences were introduced to me with The Whipping Man, and they got to know me a lot better during Somewhere. So they trust me. But Reverberation is a play that would keep even the most stout-hearted of artistic directors up at night deciding whether or not to do it. (Hartford boss) Darko Tresnjak is banking on the good will the community has for me and my work. Now, one of the things that I will say about plays like Vanya, The Whipping Man and Clybourne Park -- these plays that are ubiquitous in regional theatres around the country -- they do blaze a trail in some ways for audiences. For a lot of regional theatre audiences, if it ain't by Arthur Miller, it's a new play. 

      John Moore: Sometimes even if Arthur Miller writes it, it's a new play.    

      Matthew Lopez: True. And that's what I mean when I say audiences are trainable. When there is an openness, you can create in them the hunger for the high-wire act that is a new play. I don't run a theatre, so what the hell do I know? But I think it's possible to get an audience to actually be OK with the potential for abject failure. Because they know there is also, then, the potential for great, exciting success.

      John Moore: With your schedule being so busy, I’m intrigued that so much of your fellowship is being dedicated to time teaching in area schools. I could see how if this gets to be too busy, the class time might come to be considered optional.

      Matthew Lopez: It will never be optional for me.

      John Moore: So why is that so important to you?

      Matthew Lopez: First of all: My parents are both teachers, so I value education. I would have killed for an opportunity to attend a school like the Denver School of the Arts. When I was growing up, I didn't have access to anything like this. If I can be seen in any way as someone who is capable of providing mentorship or inspiration to these kids, then I am happy to play that role. Finally, I have been the beneficiary of a lot of kindness, and a lot of favors, and a lot of people who didn't have time to give me giving me time when I was coming up. I would be tempting fate by not giving it back to the next generation. I'd be the guy out on the deck of the Titanic talking about how there are no icebergs out there.

      COMING NEXT, Part 2: Matthew Lopez visits Denver School of the Arts

      Selected previous coverage of Matthew Lopez in Denver:
      Matthew Lopez named DCPA Playwriting Fellow for 2014-15
      Matthew Lopez's trip down the straight and fabulous
      2015 Colorado New Play Summit expands to two weekends
      'Georgia McBride' team: 'Subtlety is our enemy'

       

       

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    ABOUT THE EDITOR
    John Moore
    John Moore
    Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

    DCPA is the nation’s largest not-for-profit theatre organization dedicated to creating unforgettable shared experiences through beloved Broadway musicals, world-class plays, educational programs and inspired events. We think of theatre as a spark of life — a special occasion that’s exciting, powerful and fun. Join us today and we promise an experience you won't soon forget.